French and Indian War (1754-63) was the North American part of the global Seven Years’ war. Great Britain and France were the two main opposing sides of this war which were helped by their supportive Indian tribes. Most of the Indians were allied to France. Total strength of the French forces never exceeded 10,000 men while British were more than four times that number. The deficiency of troops was an important reason for the defeat of France in the French and Indian War.
Situation before the War
In the 1750s, most of the areas on eastern side of North America were either controlled or claimed by France and Great Britain. British had far more population (1.5 million) as compared to French population (75,000) in North America. Apart from the people of Britain and France, larger areas are also uninhabited or with the settlements of local Indians. French had better trade relations with these Indians and they used these relations in the French and Indian War to compensate their lesser population. The British were mainly settled along eastern coast from Nova Scotia in the north to Georgia in south. On the other hand, French population was mainly present in the St. Lawrence River valley (northeast USA and southeast Canada).
Events during the War
Both France and Britain were already engaged in different military conflicts since 1747 to control as much area as possible for their colonial and economic interest. The war was fought on three fronts. These were: Ohio Valley Theatre, St. Lawrence & Mohawk Theatre and Atlantic Theatre. Battle of Jumonville Glen (28th May, 1754) was the first battle of the conflict which was fought in modern-day Pennsylvania for the control of a fort in that area. The British (under command of George Washington) remained victorious in this small-scale battle.
The first major battle was the Battle of Fort Necessity (3rd July, 1754) when French troops and their Indian allies attacked the Fort Necessity (now in Pennsylvania) and defeated the British.
Till 1757, French had upper hand in the war as France and their Indian allies were achieving victories and occupying areas against British Empire. Battle of Fort Bull (March 1756), Battle of Fort Oswego (August 1756) and Siege of Fort William Henry (August 1757) were the main victories achieved by the French.
But the situation changed dramatically in 1758 after the change of administration in Britain. From 1758 to 1760, British forces dominated the conflict almost completely. They defeated France and their Indian allies in several battles while main among these battles were: Forbes Expedition (1758), Battle of Fort Niagara (July 1759), Battle of the Plains of Abraham (September 1759), Battle of Neuville (May 1760) and the Battle of the Thousand Islands (August 1760). The British also acquired victories in naval battles during this period.
But the French also fought vigorously during that period and they defeated British in few battles including: the famous Battle of Carillon (July 1758), Battle of Beauport (July 1759) and Battle of Saint-Foy (April 1760).
The Battle of Signal Hill (September 1762) was a naval battle which completed the French and Indian War with victory for Britain.
Consequences & Importance
Through Treaty of Paris, France ceded Louisiana to Spain and New France east of Mississippi River to Britain while only the small islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon remained under the control of France. On the other hand, Britain also gained Florida from Spain.
The French and Indian War was a part of Seven Years War while it started before the main Seven Years’ war due to which it could be called as the prelude of Seven Years War. The French and Indian War (or the North American theatre of Seven Years War) effectively ended the French presence in North America while Britain became the most important player in North America.
From economic point of view, this war proved very costly for both Britain and France. French defeat in the Seven Years War and its involvement in the American Revolutionary War deteriorated the economic condition of France badly which later paved the way for French Revolution.
On the other hand, Britain also had to impose taxes on Americans in order to pay its national debts which were doubled after the Seven Years War. These taxes were the main cause of American War of Independence which ended British rule in North American and established the United States of America.