December 02, 2005

Adding Insult To Injury - History Division

I've started in on Fred Anderson's Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766. Insofar as one can form an opinion of a book after only 150 pages or so, I'd say it is excellent. However, Anderson's review of the strategic situation not just in North America but in Europe as well led me to a rather horrifying realization.

You see, the origins of the Seven Years' War lay in the jockeying between France and Britain for control of the Ohio River Valley, key to expansion of both their colonial territories. Matters first came to a head with the defeats of young George Washington and later General Edward Braddock in their attempts to seize control of the area around the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, a site on which the French built Ft. Duquesne and which later became Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, the Brits were eager to contain the war in North America and not have it spread back to Europe, having been on the losing end of several recent Continental dust-ups. To this end, they started messing about with their system of allies and eventually wound up in an alliance with Prussia, at the same time distancing themselves from their former ally Austria under the Empress Maria Theresa. Austria, in turn, wound up allying itself with its traditional enemy France. Among the fruits of this alliance was the marriage of Maria Theresa's daughter Marie-Antoinette to the French Dauphin, who later became Louis XVI.

Now I know that some of you have no problem with Antoinette-bashing, as she has (undeservedly IMHO) become a caricature of all that was wrong with the ancien regime. (Ironically, this was due largely to the French aristocrats themselves, who despised her for being Austrian and spread many, many poisonous rumors about her.) But whatever your feelings about the woman, I think you'd agree that losing her head over Pittsburgh just doesn't seem right.

Posted by Robert at December 2, 2005 06:52 PM | TrackBack