The Seven Years War

The Seven Years War was a conflict between the major European powers with France, Austria, and Russia on one side and Great Britian and Prussia on the other.

The war coincided with the French / British colonial struggle in North America and India. As a result of the conflict Great Britain became the leader in overseas colonization and Prussia emerged as a powerful force in Europe.

Prussia began its rise to power during the Thirty Years War. Prussia became a kingdom in 1701. The Prussian king still owed allegiance to the Holy Roman emperor in Vienna, but rivalry between the two rulers was growing increasingly bitter.

Frederick the Great began his reign at the same time as the empress Maria Theresa became the monarch of Austria. When Frederick seized the province of Silesia from Austria Maria Theresa organized an alliance of France, Sweden, Russia, Saxony, Austria, and other countries. Frederick, who felt isolated, concluded a treaty with Great Britain.

Frederick struck first overrunning Saxony. Facing an opposition 20 times superior in population numbers, Prussia struggled for existence. Frederick utilized the advantage of his interior lines of communication to strike a number of decisive victories, but in 1759 the united Austrian and Russian forces nearly destroyed the Prussian army at the battle of Kunersdorf.

Frederick's salvation came with the death of the tsarina Elizabeth in 1762 which meant that Russia withdrew from the war. France and Sweden were exhausted and Austria deeply in debt. Austria had to negotiate a peace, Frederick kept Silesia, and Great Britain won North America and India.