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Showing 1-10 of 131 reviews(5 star). See all 177 reviews
on October 13, 2014
This is probably one of the best history books I have ever read. This is in no small measure due to the fact that Anderson is a terrific writer, which made this a very hard book to put down, despite its length. His style made the book flow, and I am amazed at his ability to easily sequence the multitude of events which took place in Europe and in North America. There were no rough transitions, and more importantly, Anderson was able to effectively transition from the strategic to the operational to the tactical, and back again without losing me in the wealth of detail. Anderson also was able to focus on a cast of characters and bring them to life in a way which only added depth to the narrative. Anderson’s analysis of this conflict was excellent. In beginning Part VII 1761- 1763, Anderson reviewed the war in terms of influential cultural factors, which neatly supplemented his political and military analysis. He effectively showed how this war significantly altered the British conception and implementation of Empire, and the political consequences this caused in the home islands. I also think that Anderson strongly defended and proved his thesis that this war was the one which laid the foundation for the rift between the American colonies and Britain. In carrying his narrative beyond the Treaty of Paris in 1763, to political events in 1766, Anderson detailed American reactions to the parliamentary acts which from a British perspective, were designed to bind the Americans closer to the Mother country, but significantly backfired from an American perspective. Anderson included a wealth of illustrations, and most importantly, maps which enables the reader to easily follow the narrative geographically, and emphasizes the strategic points Anderson makes throughout the book. I truly enjoyed this from beginning to end, and will amply reward any reader who picks it up.
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on August 27, 2017
I love well written history. This account reads as interestingly as a novel. I would say it stands up to some very notable and well known histories I have read such as; William Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Son of the Morning Star about George Armstrong Custer, the Bruce Catton Civil war histories and so forth. This is a magnificent work on 3 fronts: 1) The interworkings of the British government during a near world wide war with France over the colonies of North America and elsewhere, as well as the continent of Europe. 2) The effect on the American colonists and their views as being equal as English colonists to every Englishman in Britain with the same rights and privileges - which the government of Britain and the King did not agree on (which made the American Revolution inevitable). 3) The fascinating differences between how the British and French dealt with the various Indian nations, and the repercussions of that on trade, Indian attacks and war with the colonists, the colonists expanding the colonies westward, and so much more. Vivid details are included, famous people included in the narrative are many, including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, famous Colonial Governors, British generals, Pontiac, and many of the other famous chiefs of Indian nations. It's the history of England, Canada, America and the French and Indian Wars with a touch of Last of the Mohicans. A very very fascinating read.
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on October 12, 2017
Second time reading this book and each time I have gained something. I own this book, as I find it has some really good ideas in it that encourage further readings of it and other books of this time period. The first book I have read that lays out the theory that this is the war that really led the colonists to rebel. The author presents a convincing theory, and does a good job at backing it up. His book is cited in numerous other histories of this time period as well-written or well worth using as a source. While detailed, it doesn't bog down the reader in uninteresting details, and is a good book for those interested in this time period and willing to read more than a concise history.
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on February 26, 2011
I must confess that I rarely write reviews of history books because I'm not familiar with the primary sources (except some urban history), so I always feel like I can't truly evaluate what I read. Fred Anderson's Crucible of War, however, has so impressed me that I'm shedding my usual reluctance.

Anderson's introduction makes it clear that he wanted to change the view of people like myself, who basically dismissed the French and Indian War as a sort of dull, poorly written prequel to the American Revolution -- a view I inherited from my history teachers, a view that I hadn't bothered to correct for many years because going off to college also marked the end of my obsessive reading of military history. Anderson argues that in fact the French and Indian War had a far more dramatic impact on world history than the American Revolution, the kind of argument that makes the revisionism of global history, which challenges traditional perspectives of history by providing the larger context, so provocative and fun.

Although skimpy on India, Anderson's story ties together frontier scalpings, naval battles, political backstabbing in London and the Virginian House of Burgesses, and Silesian battlefields into one enormous coherent tapestry. (Coherent, that is, to us: Anderson repeatedly argues that participants misunderstood the events in which they participated, most spectacularly the British military leadership in North America who failed to appreciate the role of Indians in the outcome of campaigns.) With his broad perspective, Anderson makes the case, for instance, that it wasn't the Battle of Quebec that cost the French Canada but their defeat in Quiberon Bay. Indeed, this book provides such a convincing God's eye perspective on events war that even though I now am much more interested in the war, I feel like Anderson so thoroughly grasped the essence of it that reading anything else would be a letdown and at least slightly inaccurate.

It's not simply that Anderson has the big picture down. The descriptions of battles are quite vivid, particularly of the Battle of Quebec, which was, in Anderson's telling, one of the most insane battles ever fought, with every irrational decision followed by a mistake on the other side, ultimately leading to an almost comically improbable outcome, leading Anderson to name the chapter after John Steinbeck's novel In Dubious Battle. Likewise, once you get acclimatized to all the ministerial names, it's fascinating to see the interplay of the London politicking and the events in North America and continental Europe.

And, although there are a few rough sentences here and there, this book is a far cry from the dry writing of many professional historians, who seem to feel it a personal mission to render our fascinating past as lifeless as possible. The opening lines of the prologue give a sense of this book: "The rain has fallen all night, a steady, miserable rain; and when at least the light grew to the point that he could see his troops, George Washington realized that seven of them were lost in the forest, God knew where."

The book is also lavished with maps and plates. The editors must have realized that they had gold in their hands and threw aside their usual compunction to be cheap as they allowed Anderson to, for example, include `Scenographia Americana', a series of contemporary drawings about the war. They knew that everyone interested in the war would read the book even without them, but apparently didn't begrudge the expense of including additional prints. And I've long been vaguely familiar with the famous painting of the death of Wolfe --- or was it Montcalm in the painting? This book has the two paintings side by side, explaining how one was a fanciful imitation of the other, which abruptly explained the confusion.

Now, there are some problems with the layout of the paperback edition. Usually, Amazon reviews give me a very precise sense of what I order but I was taken back when I opened the box. I prefer old library hard covers, so I'm slightly oblivious to advances in new book technologies and this might just be something new, but I've never seen a trade paperback with these dimensions. It's unusually narrow. I was afraid that I was going to break the spine by opening the book enough to read near the inner margins, but I quickly started treating it with reverence so that wasn't a problem. Instead, the narrowness of the pages meant that the maps and plates were so small that they were too difficult, if not impossible, to read, particularly all the contemporary ink drawings, which tended to be crowded with detail. It felt like the plates should have been printed in landscape and not portrait format and the main North American maps reduced to one large foldout version. As a result of the limited utility of the maps, I found myself using Google Earth to make sense of some of the geography. (I strongly recommend doing this for the chapter on the Battle of Quebec. Tilt the map heavily to see the impact of the cliffs.) My gut feeling is that the layout isn't a problem with the hard cover and I would appreciate it if anyone who has handled that edition would drop a comment.

I would recommend this book not just to those interested in the American colonies or military history but to anyone who appreciates a well written book. (And I'm not prone to hyperbole: I've written twice as many two-star reviews as five-star ones.)
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on December 22, 2011
Fred Anderson's history of the Seven Years' War is an engaging and enlightening account of the definitive war in North America. It often, in the U.S. at least, gets overshadowed by the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, but that is giving it unfairly short shrift. The ongoing battle between colonial France (allied to the waning power of Spain) and England was decided by this comprehensive war ranging from the Carribean to Quebec. In fact, a general war in Europe and further colonial conflicts in such diverse locations as India, the Phillipines, and Senegal made this a truly global war, but the bulk of the lasting effects (and permanent territorial conquests) were made in continental North America. The fate of the American First Nations were sealed (no independent Native state was created), as was the bilingual English/French makeup of British North America that still survives in Canada to this day. In fact, the PBS series and companion book about this war (by the same author) was called "The War that Made America." After reading this book, it's hard to disagree that this, not the Revolution (or the Civil War, or the War of 1812) is in fact the conflict that most influenced the current political/social/racial landscape of the Americas.

As an American writer, in a conflict that had the most effect in the Americas, it is perhaps unsurprising that Dr. Anderson focusses this book on the west side of the Atlantic, and as such this might be considered a book primarily for an American audience. To emphasize the point, he starts with the Virginian militia captain George Washington bungling into a battle with a (French) Canadian militia company. Border conflict was not uncommon, including deaths and other atrocities, but this skirmish became the straw the broke the camel's back and ingnited the full-scale struggle driven by the wants of British settlers for more land, coming into conflict with the Native Americans and French who were already occupying (but not "owning") that land. The story of Captain, later Colonel, Washington is interwoven throughout the book, even though he and Virginia did not play a significant role through much of the war.

Ultimately more important than the interior frontier warfare, which produced an unsatisfactory stalemate of mutual successes,reprisals, fort building and razing, were the battles for Louisburg (in Nova Scotia) and the cities of the St. Lawrence river (in modern Quebec). Here, Anderson's writing ability really shines through as he descibes in vivid detail and driving narrative the fate of the French and British soldiers, commanders, and their native allies. The narrative is occasionally illustrated by maps/diagrams, which are invariably useful even if I'd like to have seen even more. Overall it's the quality of the writing - interesting and engaging throughout the book - that makes this a high-quality and necessary addition to the armchair historian's library (not being an actual historian, I can't comment on its usefulness to those specializing in the area, but I'm sure they would find it entertaining at the very least).
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on March 6, 2015
If you read one book on the French and Indian War this is the one to have. It is a very complete history of the war with enough detail to wet your interest for further reading on this very interesting time in the development of our nation and all the player. The French, British, Colonial, and Native Indians all jockeying for position in this fledgling country. Well written and carries you through the entire war with a summary at the end. If you are taking the time to read this review Buy This Book, Enjoy my friend.
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on December 28, 2008
Fred Anderson has written a very thorough account of the Seven Years' War which is also known in North America as the French and Indian War. While American students generally hear about this war in their high school American History class, it is not really given much importance, being only briefly mentioned along with other wars and events that occurred between the founding of the British colonies and the American Revolution. Anderson makes it very clear, however, that the fighting of the war and its military, political, and economic outcomes had enormous ramifications on European and American history (as well as on the history of the Indian sub-continent).

During the war itself, British officers had extensive and often disappointing interactions with American colonists who enlisted in American militia. This shaped the attitudes of key generals and members of Parliament at the beginning of the American Revolution who mostly had very negative views of American soldiers and believed that putting down the rebellion would be easy. More importantly, Britain incurred large debts during the war and was faced with ongoing costs associated with manning a string of forts along the new, expanded frontier. It was these debts and costs that prompted Parliament to pass the Stamp Act and other measures that taxed the American colonists without their representation. Of course, everyone knows that these taxes and subsequent punitive measures that Parliament passed after the colonists resisted them lead to the American Revolution. Anderson makes a compelling case that we gain a much better understanding of the Revolution by starting its story a decade earlier at the beginning of the Seven Years' War.

Anderson's narrative is logically laid out in 10 parts which are broken up into 74 smaller chapters that are more easily digested. His account is very thorough but also dramatic and fast-paced despite all the detail. Additionally, it includes excellent maps, portraits of key personnel, and diagrams of important fortresses.

Ironically, it turns out that George Washington played a key role in the initial minor skirmish that started the war in 1754. A nice touch of Anderson's is that he ends his story with George Washington in (temporary) retirement at Mount Vernon in 1767, closing the circle of his narrative.

The only shortcoming of the book is that it primarily draws on American and British sources. It would have been useful if Anderson had also provided some more French and German viewpoints about the war. But that is a minor criticism.

This is one of the history books that I have enjoyed more than most others, both because it was so well written and because I learned so much about a critical period in American history of which I had previously been ignorant.
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on May 14, 2009
Eighteenth Century wars had a sinister "rationality" to them. They were to the powerful people who instigated them almost heartless struggles, fought for wealth and power. Of course when you study things closer it is more complicated. Even the instigators were not impervious to human feeling and passion. Yet if one is to point to the most cynical age in modern millitary history one could point to the eighteenth century. At that time wars were fought for rational reasons and peace was made when that was accomplished. Of course it did not feel at all that way to those actually affected by it...

The Seven Years War was the greatest of European power struggles. It made the British Empire. In another way it made America. It was then that Americans first started to feel themselves a nation.

The author chronicles how this happens in an extrodinarily detailed book about the Seven Years War focusing on how it affected soon-to-be America. He writes of the many people involved in it. And he accepts complexity as complex and does not lazily support either myth or iconoclasm(which is another form of myth). He also describes some of the aspects of frontier war which can be fascinating in their own right. It is well written and a book worth having. However the size and complexity means that it requires commitment to read it.

The author's stated goal in this book interestingly, is not to describe the Seven Years War for it's own sake but to expound on a theory of his on how it caused the American Revolution. He does this quite convincingly but it leaves a large section(enough to make a book of it's own), that simply drags on, after the end of the war. This need not be a burden as one can stop part of the way. For the matter of that, one does not need to read cover to cover.

Be that as it may, if you are willing to make the commitment, the book is an attractive one and worth the read.
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"Crucible of War" is a sumptuously written, richly textured, and scholarly narrative history of the Seven Years' War (more commonly known to Americans as the French and Indian War.) Authored by Fred Anderson, Associate Professor of History at the University of Colorado, Boulder, "Crucible of War" is the first major study of the Seven Years' War since "Montcalm and Wolfe," Francis Parkman's classic account of the war, written in 1884. It is, in my view, of equal historical and literary quality as its esteemed predecessor.

"Crucible of War" is notable not only for its exquisite prose and tremendous scholarship, but also because it takes an historically less traditional approach to the French and Indian War than most previous accounts. The author argues persuasively that this was actually a world war involving Britain, France, Spain, and other European powers. The war in North America was the spark that ignited this worldwide conflict, and the effects of the war in the New World were especially significant because they ended in France's decisive defeat, and a "dramatic rearrangement of the balance of power in Europe and North America alike."

The immediate catalyst for the Seven Years' War was the dispute between Britain and France over the Ohio Valley, a dispute which came to a head in 1754 when George Washington led a small force of Virginia militia into the area around present-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to drive out the French. Unsuccessful in his mission, Washington unknowingly engaged the French in the first battle of a war which would ultimately deprive France of her North American empire.

From 1754 through 1758, the British suffered a succession of humiliating defeats at the hands of the French and her Indian allies. During this period, Britain had also drifted into a general European war with France, and suffered a string defeats in Europe as well. The turning point in British fortunes actually came in 1757. William Pitt, a Minister of the British government, changed British colonial policy, which treated the colonies as "subordinate jurisdictions," to one which treated the colonies as allies in a struggle against a common foe. He also began the process of replacing inept military commanders with more professional ones - men like James Wolfe and Sir Jeffrey Amherst. Pitt's efforts paid tremendous dividends during 1759 - the Annus Mirabilis - the "Year of Miracles" - when British fortunes were permanently reversed with stunning victories in North America and in Europe.

Anderson's narrative accounts of the war's major military and political battles are very well written and intriguing; however, I found the most fascinating aspect of this book to be how Anderson treats the years after the war, and the effects of those years on later events. The author counters a widely held historical view that many key events which occurred after the war - from 1763 to 1766, when the book closes - were precursors to an inevitable American Revolution. Instead, Anderson sees the historical events of the 1760s as an unanticipated shift in relations between Britain and her colonies, the result of a nation trying to regain control over subjects in the New World. Neither Britain nor her colonies could have foretold the coming of an American Revolution; nor did either side desire such a conflict. The historical events which we Americans now understand as being seminal to the ultimate independence of the United States are viewed in this book as a natural evolution in relations between Britain her colonies.

"Crucible of War" is an exceptionally well written book - perhaps one of the very best works of American history I've read in recent years! Anderson has imbued his work with tremendous scholarship. As I read it, I was constantly amazed at how easily Anderson was able to convey facts about all aspects of the war. With great facility, he moves the reader from military events in North America to battles in Europe; from the internal politics of Indian tribes and colonial governments, to the inner workings of British and French government ministries. Anderson's painstaking research, and keen eye for historical detail are obvious throughout this book, much to the benefit of the reader. "Crucible of War" is a book of outstanding scholarship, and "must read" for anyone interested in American history.
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on July 16, 2017
This is the best treatment I've read of the French and Indian War, or Seven Years War, given from the perspective of the American colonies. It's not merely a history, but a primer on how American thoughts on liberty and representation were developed and how those thoughts led to the arguments for independence and colonial unity. A must read for any student of American history or political thought.
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