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Breaking The Backcountry: The Seven Years' War In Virginia And Pennsylvania 1754-1765 Paperback – October 17, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press; 1 edition (October 17, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822958651
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822958659
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #540,319 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“In gripping detail, [Ward] tells the story of a decade of devastation and settler-refugee flight produced by the war and its aftermath. . . . His engrossing writing style and crisp analysis should appeal to general readers as well as advanced history students and college professors. . . . Brings to life all the protagonists on America’s western frontier.” 
--History: Reviews of New Books

"Seamlessly combining military, social, diplomatic, and Indian history, Ward persuasively demonstrates how the war ‘fundamentally transformed both colonies.’ . .  highly relevant to academic, public, and classroom discussions of the war’s meanings and legacies.”
--PA Magazine of History and Biography

“Ward ably explains life in the backcountry, the demographics of provincial armies (including a comparison of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts soldiers), the intricacies of Native American diplomacy, the politics of colonial government, and military actions in the Ohio Valley. Scholars interested in rural life, military and social history, and Native American studies should welcome this book.”

About the Author

Matthew C. Ward is a lecturer in the department of history at the University of Dundee, Scotland.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Theo Logos on May 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
Historians of the Seven Years War have often neglected to give much attention to the waging of that war in the backcountry of Pennsylvania and Virginia, preferring instead to concentrate on the conquest of Canada. Most of the set-piece, European style battles of that war happened in Canada or New York, and the conquest of Canada is generally viewed as the most important accomplishment of that war in North America. Yet it was in the backcountry of Pennsylvania where this first truly global war started, and its causes lay in the dispute between the English settlers of Virginia and Pennsylvania with the French over control of the rich country of the Ohio River Valley. And no area of North America suffered more from that war than did the frontier settlements of Pennsylvania and Virginia. Matthew Ward has taken on this oft neglected subject, and has given us an excellent book detailing the war as it was fought in the backcountry.

Ward opens by detailing the disputes between the Pennsylvanian and Virginian colonist with the French power in Canada over who had rightful claim to the Ohio country. He touches on the winter journey of young George Washington on his unsuccessful diplomatic mission to the French at Fort LeBoeuf, and his even more disastrous military expedition and defeat at the Great Meadows the following year. (Washington's ill-fated expedition is often cited as the unofficial beginning of the Seven Years War.) He then moves on to the disaster of Braddock's expedition and massacre, which marked both the official beginning of the war, and the beginnings of several years of savage, bloody raids on the backcountry, raids that nearly depopulated the entire frontier.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Bomojaz on January 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
Matthew Ward has written an excellent account of the Seven Years' War as it played out along the frontier of Pennsylvania and Virginia. He begins with a chapter on the development of the backcountry (roughly the area west of the Susquehanna River in PA and the Upper Shenandoah Valley region of VA) and how events there became a struggle of occupation between the French and English, especially as they played out through the trade relations both countries developed with the Indians. Population soared in this area during the 1700s, and settlers' visions went beyond the Appalachians to the Ohio Valley.

Ward discusses the effects of the fur trade, the frontier attitudes and how they differed from those of urban dwellers, and the question of who would control the Ohio Valley as important concerns in setting the stage for conflict. Of course, he tells of Braddock's expedition and defeat and how that unleashed a great number of raids and depredations against the settlers in the Cumberland and Shenandoah Valleys. The western settlers in PA had much difficulty getting the Quaker rulers in Philadelphia to appreciate the tremendous bellicosity that existed between them and the Indians (under French control), and their need for supplies, weapons, even soldiers to prevent all of central PA from being totally evacuated. Hundred of people were being killed and much property destroyed. Sometimes settler groups took matters into their own hands to defend themselves or protest against what they considered an uncaring government (the Paxton Boys). Ward covers all of this carefully and insightfully.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Matthew Ward's interesting and informative book is a meticulously researched social and military history of the Seven Years' War. It will be of special interest to those who live in those parts of Pennsylvania and Virginia that in the mid-18th century were part of the "backcountry" where most of the fierce fighting took place. Social, economic, and religious divisions among the inhabitants of the backcountry play a prominent role in this story as does the diplomacy between various Indian tribes and the British and the French. British military ineptness along with the scandalous treatment of the Indians by greedy colonial landowners and unscrupulous British agents are central themes of the book. As students of American history know, this fascinating conflict between the British and French (and their native American allies) generated issues that led directly to the American revolution of 1776. If you want to read one book on the Seven Years' War, this is a good place to start.
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By W. B Crews on January 7, 2010
Format: Paperback
Matthew Ward pulls together a wide variety of contemporary and scholarly sources to examine a mostly ignored and largely misunderstood episode of American history: the French and Indian War.

Meticulously footnoted, Ward examines the social, economic, political, and military dimensions of that war and leads you with the inescapable conclusion that catastrophic defeat was only narrowly averted. His examination of the immense military and political problems surrounding the formation of the First Virginia Regiment under Colonel George Washington indicate that the patience and fortitude shown by him during the defeats of 1776, the winter of 76-77, and later at Valley Forge were skills he mastered at Winchester and later in Western Pennsylvania.

Politically the book carries a strong whiff of critical theory throughout and the author repeatedly searches to find class conflict though, to his credit he ultimately lets the facts rather than dialectic lead him. It was also vaguely disturbing to find Michael Bellsisles' fraudulent Arming America not only in the bibliography but referenced in footnotes.

Overall an excellent book. If you want to understand this formative event in Colonial America and our first president's life this book is a must-read.
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