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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good on Balance, But Distractingly Sloppy
1759 is an historical 'pivot year' and McLynn's book is a very accessible description of the events of that year. The sloppy and laughable editing becomes a distracting irritant as you read the book, however. On page 4, Martha Custis, who became Martha Washington, is identified as "Martha Curtis." On page 15, the author refers to locations "near the modern...
Published on June 27, 2005 by Michael Bishop

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49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Exercise in Frustration
How did I dislike this book? Let me count the ways. No, y'all don't have time for that. Perhaps I feel so strongly because McLynn's treatment of what was unarguably one of the pivotal years in modern history was such a disappointment. Possibly congenitally incapable of writing a simple declarative sentence, McLynn further challenges the reader with incessant allusions...
Published on August 9, 2005 by Thomas M. Sullivan


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49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Exercise in Frustration, August 9, 2005
By 
Thomas M. Sullivan (Lake George, NY USA) - See all my reviews
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How did I dislike this book? Let me count the ways. No, y'all don't have time for that. Perhaps I feel so strongly because McLynn's treatment of what was unarguably one of the pivotal years in modern history was such a disappointment. Possibly congenitally incapable of writing a simple declarative sentence, McLynn further challenges the reader with incessant allusions to other historical times and figures while providing no context for the references, the net effect of which is the inference that he's literally and literarily "showing off". I found myself reading sentences two and three times in an effort to understand what he was getting at. And then there are the factual howlers. In discussing British General Hopson's difficulties in attacking Martinique, McLynn writes (on page 108), "He was in a position remarkably similar to the one General John Burgoyne would confront at Saratoga in 1777: short of water while being unable to deploy his big guns." Huh? Perhaps McLynn is unaware of the facts that the Battle of Saratoga was fought literally within yards of the Hudson River and that Burgoyne had no "big guns" to deploy and would have had no opportunity to use them if he did. This sort of thing made at least this reader wonder whether McLynn really knows what he's talking about with his principal subject. As another reviewer has mentioned, McLynn seldom chooses simple words and phrases if more complicated (and often mystifying) one's are available in his--not our--lexicon: how about using the term "lacustrine littoral" (page 129) instead of its translation, "lake shore"? Doubly unfortunately, McLynn spent too much time crafting vague metaphors and oblique displays of erudition and not enough on punctuation and general editing: the book is replete with missing or misplaced commas, colons and parentheses, omitted words, misspellings, etc. In all, reading "1759" reminded me of my days grading college student papers, many of which appeared to have been prepared on the subconscious theory that if you're unsure you know what you're talking about, throw as many (preferably esoteric) words as possible at the subject and let God and the reader sort them out. I admit to having skimmed the last couple hundred pages in the hope that McLynn might somehow redeem himself in later chapters. He didn't. Bottom line, if you want to know more about this momentous year and the French and Indian War in general, stick with the masters: Fred Anderson's "Crucible of War", Ian K. Steele's "Betrayals", Christopher Hibbert's "Wolfe at Quebec" and, of course, the classic treatment, Francis Parkman's "Montcalm and Wolfe". McLynn lists most of these works as sources. After reading "1759", I wonder whether he's ever actually read them.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good on Balance, But Distractingly Sloppy, June 27, 2005
By 
Michael Bishop (Atlanta, GA United States) - See all my reviews
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1759 is an historical 'pivot year' and McLynn's book is a very accessible description of the events of that year. The sloppy and laughable editing becomes a distracting irritant as you read the book, however. On page 4, Martha Custis, who became Martha Washington, is identified as "Martha Curtis." On page 15, the author refers to locations "near the modern Tennessee-South Carolina border." Trouble is, there is no such modern border and the two states are separated by almost a hundred miles. Somebody forgot to fact check with the map on that one. In Chapter 3, about the war in the West Indies, we're told on page 109 that French Guadelope had a "population of 2,000 Europeans and 30,000 blacks." Miraculously, just nine pages later on page 118 the island's population has surged to "50,000," and we are told that "more than 80 percent [i.e., 45,000] were black slaves." Huh? On page 178, an event of 1758 is identified as occurring in "1858." Don't you think someone could've done a simple error search to ensure all dates were firmly grounded in the eighteenth century? The author enjoys displaying his erudition and grasp of the recondite a bit too much. "For the French it was now a case of sauve qui peut," may certainly be true, as McLynn states on page 252, but the average anglophone doesn't have the slightest idea what the phrase means. Why should I need a French-English dictionary to read this book? Likewise, why should the average reader be expected to "get" the author's oblique reference to incidents of the future Battle of Waterloo when, on page 305, he notes that the performance of one French commander in 1759 was unforgivable "just as nothing could later absolve Grouchy." As a reader I MAY know the reference, but I shouldn't HAVE to know it in order to read this book. There's also political correctness to wade through. On page 248 we're grandly told that a British seaman, Olaudah Equiano, a native West African, ranks as "one of the most remarkable figures of the eighteenth century." Yes, Mr. Equiano was indeed a person of some distinction, but McLynn's delirious phrase seems aimed at vaulting this bit player into the ranks of Voltaire et al. Read on and I think you'll agree, it just doean't add up. Finally, the maps supplied in this book are spotty and inadequate.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unfortunate erudition..., February 1, 2006
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It has been a long time since I have had to read a book with a dictionary and an atlas beside me. Other reviewers have felt that the author was showing off. My sense is that he may have had a classical British education where references to Greek and Roman mythology and the ability to read French fluently are more normative. This is not so for even the well educated American reader of history. While it may be a true scholastic achievement to use the word uxoriousness in a sentence, wouldn't shrewish have done? Or embezzelment instead of defalcation? The complexity of the language interfered with the flow of the narrative.

I also heartily agree with the reviewer who faulted this book for the lack of and inaccuracy of maps. Often place names were mentioned in the text that were not found on the few maps included in the book--essentially one for every theatre of war covered. The scale of the maps was very misleading; one could think that the Connecticut River, the St. Lawrence, and Lakes George and Champlain were neighbors, rather than a multi-day tour of northern New England. I wondered whether McLynn had ever visited the geography he wrote about--or for that matter, checked his maps against his text.

That all said, I think McLynn makes his point about this being a crucial year in history, and I am willing to give him some slack for his desire to write two books in one... a brief history of the thought of the times, and a work of narrative history. I wonder whether they would have made two better books if done separately, though.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Story Of The Annus Mirabilis, June 5, 2005
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Some years are immediately recognized by the people who lived through them as being major turning points in history. 1776 is an obvious example, and so is 1759. However, many people today would be hardpressed to remember any earthshaking events that took place in 1759. Frank McLynn has taken the annus mirabilis (as it was known in Britain at the time) and given it new life.

1759 was the center point of the Seven Years War, a titanic struggle which has often been called the first true world war. Many nations and areas were involved in the conflict, but the primary combatants were Britain and France. The two European superpowers had been locked in battle for most of the last eighty years over who was going to be supreme in Europe and in the colonial areas.

McLynn divides his book into chapters dealing with different areas which were at the center of the struggle in 1759: Europe, India, the Caribbean, and North America. He describes such climatic battles as The Plains of Abraham and Quiberon Bay so clearly that even readers without military backgrounds can fully comprehend the strategies of the commanders. He provides short but clear biographies of the leading actors in the drama of 1759 like George II, William Pitt, Louis Montcalm, Madame de Pompadour, and Louis XV. Most impressively, he provides detailed but understandable analyses of the military and financial strengths and weaknesses of Britain and France. I also appreciated the amount of material McLynn provides on the North American Indians and their societies, and how they played off the Europeans against each other in order to maintain their own existence. McLynn is fair minded, giving horrific details of Indian atrocities against Europeans, but then describing similar atrocities performed by Europeans against the Indians and putting both in the context of what was a violent and bloodthirsty century (No "civilization against the savages" theme for McLynn, in other words).

I especially enjoyed the short prologues at the beginning of most of the chapters giving some cultural perspectives on what was happening during 1759, so that the reader doesn't come away with the impression that it was all battle and no art or literature. I tend to be a little doubtful that the Jacobites played quite as large a role in many of 1759's events as McLynn makes out, but that is understandable in that the declining fortunes of the Stuarts and their followers has been a central focus of his studies over many years. All in all, 1759 is a masterful study of a year we ought to remember better.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unfortunately weak, January 1, 2006
By 
Henri IV (Paris, France) - See all my reviews
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The book needed competent editing. It is comprehensive and erudite, but hard to read. I'm not put off by the vocabulary or the French, but the author offers too much detail that really doesn't flesh out his theme. Additionally, the book suffers terribly from an absence of maps and battle illustrations. The written descriptions of engagements and battle plans need a lot of help. Additionally, the writer speaks often of the St. Charles River, but the map that should show it is missing the label on the line that I think is the St. Charles River. Overall, the book is very weak in the matter of illustrative material. The book is also unbalanced in its choice of materials to emphasize. The entire chapter on Robert's Raiders seems superfluous, and again so badly illustrated that one cannot follow what is happening unless one is already entirely intimate with local geography. For a really superb, lucid treatment of a historial event, I really like Hansen's recent, absolutely brilliant work on the Peloponnesian War. I also enjoyed another recent work on the influence of the Royal Navy in shaping the modern world. Both of these latter books are much better examples of written history than 1759.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Incomplete, June 22, 2005
This very detailed history suffers from several omissions:

1. While describing complicated military maneuvers, there are no maps to enable the reader to follow what is happening.

2. There are no notes to the text despite numerous references to obscure events.

3. The author seems obsessed with his own erudtion, leaving the reader to flounder amongst the excessive and superfluous details.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Historical Masterpiece, March 27, 2005
By 
P. Byrd (hickory, nc United States) - See all my reviews
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Frank McLynn gives us a summary of a year (1759) that was paramount in British history, and in the history of the Western world.

As an added bonus, the author provides us in prologues to each chapter, some of the important cultural events of that time, which brillantly ties the work together.

Rather than a military history, McLynn gives us a complete understanding of this time and the struggle between the English and French for the domination of Europe and the numerous colonies at stake.

There is no hero worship here; the faults of Wolfe are just as clearly portrayed as his victory at Quebec. The massive money machine of France is there with all its faults, and the struggle between the English and French in India is well worth the reading.

It is obvious that McLynn has created a great work of history that is somewhat defined within the boundaries of one year.

You can only read so many books in a lifetime. Please read this one.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Important thesis but unevenly executed, September 6, 2005
By 
Scott N. Stone (Washington,, DC USA) - See all my reviews
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Most who finish this book will agree that McLynn has proved his thesis that 1759 was the year Britain overtook France on the world stage. In North America, India and Europe, France, crippled by overstretched finances, squabbling and intrigue at court, and widespread corruption, succumbed to the growing power of Britain. McLynn, by balancing "close up" portraits of the main military and political players and readable accounts of the campaigns in the various theaters, creates a reasonably clear story line showing not only what happened, but why. The scope of what he has done is considerable, because each of the theaters he addresses has a voluminous literature. He has thus performed a valuable service in pulling it all together.

But the book is often a hard slog. Although most of McLynn's writing is lucid, the editing (both his own structuring of the narrative and the final polishing) are frustratingly incomplete. The lapses of editing go beyond typos and factual inaccuracies and beyond McLynn's frequent displays of erudition that contribute nothing to the book. At times the reader is dropped into the middle of a narrative involving people and situations that have not been introduced. At other times lengthy sections of text are glued together without careful integration, leading to repetition, occasional contradiction, and confusion concerning the chronological order of events. These weaknesses are a serious drain on the reader's energy, attention, and understanding.

The literary and cultural digressions that fill several pages at the beginning of each chapter are of uneven quality and value. The portraits of the French philosophes (Voltaire et al.) and the British social philosophers (Hume, Adam Smith, et al.) fit nicely with the book's theme, and raise the interesting question whether the emerging British pre-eminence was related to their more pragmatic frame of mind as compared with the French. But other portions of the "bonus" material, such as the extended discourse on flora and fauna at the beginning of the chapter on India, contribute almost nothing to the theme of the book.

In sum, while Mr. McLynn has shed light on an important year in history, the book cries out for a revised edition that would tighten and clarify the main storylines.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good thesis, only an OK read., April 12, 2006
By 
Daniel Calandro (Fairfield, New Jersey, USA) - See all my reviews
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I'm sure if you're reading my review you've seen others praising McLynn's work and other bashing him for his classical allusions and five dollar words. The truth is "1759" falls somewhere in the middle of the two. But first I think it's important to point out that McLynn is attempting to write in a 19th century style. As there are no footnotes and the quotation marks used are the single instead of the double. At least that's the conclusion I come to.

First with the bad. While McLynn's use of excessively obscure definitions can be frustrating it is refreshing to see not see the word "big" in a history text. The maps are also very poor. He might have even drawn them himself, I have no idea, but they are really pretty awful. Finally, -though I'm sure this was done on purpose- there are no footnotes and the bibliography is pretty sparse.

Now onto the good. I really like McLynn's thesis in that he goes beyond saying it was just a world war. He tries to prove, and I think he does, that the year 1759 completely changed world history and people's perception of what an empire could be. I also enjoyed his prefaces to each dealing especially the ones dealing with art, music, literature and famous personages. They really added to the overall picture that 1759 was truly a year that changed the world.

Ok now that I've rambled on a bit, I guess I would have to say that I can't really recommend this book to the casual history reader. McLynn's allusions are too vague and his use of SAT words does become annoying. I would therefore recommend Fred Anderson's excellent "Crucible of War" or for a North American perspective William M. Fowler's "Empires at War". While McLynn's book does have its merits its simply too much of a pain in the butt to enjoy reading.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for the casual history reader -- not story in this history, July 22, 2005
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I have always been fascinated with this period of time that is covered so breifly in school and yet so important to our history. McLynn has picked the year 1759 to focus on and he does a good job of tallying the facts and activities of the world at that time.

Unforuantely, the book is written more for college history majors, with so many dates, names, place names all in a list like prose that it is difficult for the lay person to enjoyably understand what he is talking about.

The book, again from a lay person's perspective, does not seem to advance a thesis or story that makes for a learnable experience. There is little discussion of the forces shaping the world at that time and sweeping references to other things.

This is a histroy book for a history student and not something for someone who reads history on occasion and wants to understand a context and the story behind the history.

If you have already read about the period and know the names of Louis XV's court etc then I am sure that you will love this book. If not, then I have to say you should look elsewhere.
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1759: The Year Britain Became Master of the World
1759: The Year Britain Became Master of the World by Frank McLynn (Paperback - February 6, 2006)
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