Was The Seven Years' War The First World War? | Happy Student Education ™

Was the Seven Years’ War the First World War?

Article Category Schools | Students | Teachers
Published April 21, 2021
Nations Involved In the Seven Years War Image
Nations Involved In the Seven Years War

Total War

The Eighty Years’ War, the Thirty Years’ War, and the Austrian War

Throughout military history, there have been numerous large-scale wars in which most military powers are involved one way or the other. Is any war in which most military powers are involved is considered a World War? World War I (1914–1918) set the standard for what would be considered a world war in terms of troops mobilized, resources, and total casualties. With that said, can the Seven Years War (1756–1763) be considered the First World War?

Considering it was “a war engaged in by all or most of the principal nations of the world, I believe it was”1 However, during the early modern period the world was in a state of total war. Wars such as the Eighty Years’ War, the Thirty Years’ War, and the Austrian War of Succession encompassed nearly every militarily capable nation. Nevertheless, there was no circumstance in which several continents were simultaneously engaged in war therefore the Seven Years’ War can predominantly be considered the First World War.

The rise of great military minds

During the 16th century, Europe saw how the Military Revolution changed the military structure and the integration of a societal drift never seen since the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD.2 The armies grew bigger, that tactics became deadlier with trench warfare, the weapons deadlier than ever, and the commanders became professional officers. Putting all their effort into professionalizing the army, and reforming the state.

The 17th and 18th centuries say the rise and fall of great commanders such as Gustavus Adolphus, Albrecht von Wallenstein with his private army of 100,000 men, and Frederick II the Great of Prussia and the expansion of the Prussian army. These commanded professional, and nationalistic war machines.Was the Seven Years' War the First World War?

The rise of Gustavus Adolphus, Albrecht von Wallenstein, Frederick II the Great of Prussia set into motion military conflicts that lasted years with huge casualties. These shifts also impacted borders that transcended modern times.

Seven Years’ War & First World War

During the lifetime of these great commanders, wars grew larger, and casualties became horrendously unlike never seen in history. To consider the Seven Years’ War the First World War attention has to be given between to both the Seven Years War and World War I, and the numerous “World Wars” throughout the 17th and 18th; in order to clearly comprehend what a World War characterizes.

“the primary combatants of the Seven Years’ War were Austria, led by Queen Maria Theresa; Britain, led by George II and later George III (also Electors of Hanover); France, with Louis XV on the throne; Prussia, led by Frederick II(later known as Frederick the Great); and Russia, with Empress Elizabeth.”3

The Seven Years’ War was much more complex and unpredictable than previous wars since battles were taking place on several continents including America, and colonial territories in the Philippines, and India.

Moreover, the Seven Years’ War experienced numerous theaters of war and is referred by several names throughout the World. For instance, In the United States, the Seven Years’ War was referred to as the French and Indian War.

The Seven Years’ War epitomized global scale warfare where all the military and economic resources of the primary states involved were put to use. The Seven Years’ War was a combination of wars fought throughout the world during the same period in history.

The first war in which India, Asia, and the Americas were formed part of a global European military conflict. For example, the French and Indian War took place in the Americas between Great Britain and France (and the Iroquois Confederation) over colonial territory and expanded form (1754 to 1763) conforming part of the theater of the Seven Years’ War.Frederick II the Great of Prussia 

Furthermore, during the same period, the Third Carnatic War (1757–1763) was taking place in Southern India between the British and the French again over colonial territory. The Spanish Portuguese war (1761–1763) is also a war added to the Seven Years’ war in which Spain allied with Britain agreed to attack French allied Portugal in South American to imbalance the economic support they offered France. However, since France was losing the colonial war, the Spanish ended fighting the British for fear of the massive colonial power amassed by the British in the subsequently Battle of Havana in 1762.

Impact of the Seven Years’ War

All these wars originated from the development of the Seven Years’ War in 1756. Nevertheless, end result and the casualties’ figures, along with the decisiveness in the heart of Europe make the Seven Years’ War the recognizable choice as the First World War. For instance, “Unlike every prior eighteenth-

Gustavus Adolphuscentury European conflict, the Seven Years’ War ended in the decisive defeat of one belligerent and a dramatic rearrangement of the balance of power, in Europe and North America alike. In destroying the North American empire of France, the war created a desire for revenge that would drive French foreign policy, and thereby shape European affairs, for two decades.”4

The Current condition in the Americas deteriorated the current situation between the British Empire and the French Colonial Empire of Present-day Quebec Canada. For Instance, “…But what made the fighting begin where it did, and when it did, were circumstances  stances specific to America,

conditions at best imperfectly grasped by European statesmen.”5  North America became strategically, and economically important to Europe, though, mostly France and Britain established colonies in North America; yet, numerous alliances were established during the Diplomatic Revolution 1756 resulting, as seen before in warfare, in a magnet of all military powers into undesired warfare.

In retrospect, the Austrian War of Succession influenced the Seven Years’ War (1740–1748) and was fought over the succession of Queen Maria Theresa of the House of Habsburg in Austria. The Austrian War of Succession resulted from the death of Charles VI (1685 –1740).

Emperor Charles VI had no clear heir therefore Queen Maria Theresa ascended to the Throne but was openly challenged by Prussia backed by France on the pretext that only a king should be able to rule Austria. Queen Theresa was supported by Great Britain and the Dutch Republic who were tolerant of women leaders and traditional enemies of France and Prussia, later Spain was dragged into the war as an excuse to regain territories in Italy.6

Although the Austrian War of Succession officially ended in 1748 in the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in Germany, friction led to more conflicts, and alliances made during the Austrian War of Succession led to the Seven Years War; merging the two into the same periods. Nevertheless, the Austrian War of Succession never amounts to the magnitude to be considered a World War.

The post 1700s warfare developments confirmed periods of constant warfare, rebellions, and limited and indecisive wars. For instance, in the late 18th century the British American colony revolted and declared independence in 1776, additionally, the seventeen Dutch provinces revolted against the Spanish Empire led by King Philip II of Spain resulting in the Eighty Years War (1568–1648).7

Was the Seven Years' War the First World War?

Parallel to the American revolt, the Dutch War of Independence resulted from the lack of governmental involvement, high taxation, and negligence due to the size of the Spanish Empire in the 17th century.P.107(Graham Darby) Furthermore, alliances, and personal advantage dragged the traditional contenders into the war; France, Great Britain, and the Germans took part in the prolonged war. The Eighty Years’ War took place entirely in Europe and lasted 68 years.

Moreover, in 1606 both Spain and The seventeen colonies seek peace to recover from the constant warfare resulting in the twelve years truce. Ultimately, Spain and the Dutch came to an agreement in The Peace of Münster resulting in the effective acknowledgment of the Dutch Republic and ended the Spanish rule over the Dutch Republic, and ended the long war.8 In addition, the Peace of Muster additionally took part in ending the Thirty Years War as part of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.

With that said, the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) saw the most military genius of the early modern period, in terms of leadership. Commanders such a Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden successfully led armies during the Thirty Years’ War,  Albrecht von Wallenstein militarily assisted the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II during the Thirty Years’ War.

Unlike previous military engagements discussed, the Thirty Years’ War was predominantly a religious war. The Protestant States and Allies led by France and the Kingdom of Sweden and the Roman Catholic States and Allies led by the Holy Roman Empire and The Spanish Empire. The Thirty Years’ war predominantly developed in Europe and most battles took place in Germany.

They developed in many phases; the Swedish phase in 1630 saw great development in warfare with the introduction of King Gustavus Adolphus and an army of more than 100,000 men.9 Nonetheless, the complexity of the Thirty Years’ war coupled with the indecisiveness, and the domestically failed to gain the title of the First World War.


Thus every war fought during the 17th and onward did not achieve global impact as much as the Sven Years’ wars. With shock-waves that influenced even the development of the British Empire, and the United States of America.

For instance, “At the same time, the scope of Britain’s victory [resulting from the Seven Years’ War] enlarged its American domains to a size that would have been difficult for any European metropolis to control, even under the best of circumstances…”10 as consequence the British colonies were able to amass enough power to efficiently revolt against the British Empire.

In addition, all the colonies of the British Empire, and the French Colonial Empire were engaged all around the world making the war even grandeur.

The aftermath of the proved bloodier than any other military conflict of the time; with nearly 2,000,000. Casualties considering the size of the armies during the 17th century, averaging less than 50,000 troops, many casualties were impacting. Nevertheless, there is a reason why World War I, or the Great War, undisputed deserves the title of the First World War with a larger scope, with the risen of numerous nations including the United States, 37,466,904 in casualties. 11


  1. Webster Dictionary
  2. Men in Arms P.93
  3. The Seven Years’ War P.9
  4. Ibid P. 17
  5. Ibid P. 12
  6. Ibid P. 40
  7. Essays on Eighteenth-Century Dutch Political Thought P. 198
  8. the Origins and Development of the Dutch Revolt P. 120
  9. the Thirty Years’ War 1618-1648 P. 24
  10. the Fate of Empire in British North America P. 17
  11. Casualty and Death Tables


Anderson, Fred. Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766. Westminster, MD, USA: Alfred A. Knopf Incorporated, 2000

Anderson, Fred Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766 Published January 23, 2001

Liebau, Heike Bromber, Katrin (Editor) Studies in Global Social History, 5: World in World Wars: Experiences, Perceptions, and Perspectives from Africa and Asia. Leiden, NLD: Brill Academic Publishers, 2010.

Alfred A. Knopf the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766 Westminster, MD, USA: Incorporated, 2000.

Col Trevor N. Dupuy Future Wars: The World’s Most Dangerous Flashpoints Published January 20, 1993

Daniel Marston the Seven Years’ War published July 25, 2001

Graham Darby the Origins and Development of the Dutch Revolt Published May 31, 2001, P.pg. 107

Reed S. Browning the War of the Austrian Succession Published May 15, 1995

William P. Guthrie William P. Guthrie Visit Amazon’s William P. Guthrie Page Battles of the Thirty Years War: From White Mountain to Nordlingen, 1618-1635

Richard Bonney the Thirty Years’ War 1618-1648 Published August 19, 2002

Francis Parkman The Seven Years War: a narrative taken from Montcalm and Wolfe, The conspiracy of Pontiac, and A half-century of conflict.

The British Royal Achieves


Velema, Wyger R.E. Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History, Volume 155: Republicans: Essays on Eighteenth-Century Dutch Political Thought. Boston, MA, USA: Brill Academic Publishers, 2007.

WWI Casualty and Death Tables (United States Department of Justice) Accessed May 20th, 2012 http://www.pbs.org/greatwar/resources/casdeath_pop.html

Preston Roland Wise Men in Arms A history of Warfare and its interrelationship with Western society Published2004/2009

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