The French Navy and the Seven Years' War


The French Navy and the Seven Years' War

Jonathan R. Dull

France Overseas: Studies in Empire and Decolonization Series

472 pages
5 maps, 12 appendixes, index


December 2007


$22.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

The Seven Years’ War was the world’s first global conflict, spanning five continents and the critical sea lanes that connected them. This book is the fullest account ever written of the French navy’s role in the hostilities. It is also the most complete survey of both phases of the war: the French and Indian War in North America (1754–60) and the Seven Years’ War in Europe (1756–63), which are almost always treated independently. By considering both phases of the war from every angle, award-winning historian Jonathan R. Dull shows not only that the two conflicts are so interconnected that neither can be fully understood in isolation but also that traditional interpretations of the war are largely inaccurate. His work also reveals how the French navy, supposedly utterly crushed, could have figured so prominently in the War of American Independence only fifteen years later.
A comprehensive work integrating diplomatic, naval, military, and political history, The French Navy and the Seven Years’ War thoroughly explores the French perspective on the Seven Years’ War. It also studies British diplomacy and war strategy as well as the roles played by the American colonies, Spain, Austria, Prussia, Russia, Sweden, and Portugal. As this history unfolds, it becomes clear that French policy was more consistent, logical, and successful than has previously been acknowledged, and that King Louis XV’s conduct of the war profoundly affected the outcome of America’s subsequent Revolutionary War.

Author Bio

Jonathan R. Dull is a senior associate editor of The Papers of Benjamin Franklin series and author of the award-winning history The French Navy and American Independence: A Study of Arms and Diplomacy, 1774-1787.


“A full-dress history of the Seven Years’ War as a whole, from the French perspective. . . . The focus is almost entirely upon grand strategy, diplomacy, and economics and finance; as such it is a first-rate work of serious history. . . . Any serious student of the era will find this a comprehensive history.”—Peyton Moss, ForeWord Magazine

"Dull. . . has produced a comprehensively researched history of the Seven Years' War that succeeds in tracing the political and military ramifications of warfare in North American and Europe. He also fills a crucial historiographic gap by focusing on the long neglected French navy and placing its operational history in a wider political context. . . . Ultimately the book contributes critical research to a burgeoning topic and will prove useful for those seeking an engaging account of high politics and military operations during the Seven Years' War."—Lauren E. Heckler, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History

"There are a great many books for English-speaking readers concerning the British Royal Navy in the 18th century, but not many that provide solid, well-researched material concerning its greatest rival, the French Navy. Dull helps fill in that gap and provides some much-needed balance with this work. Overall, this is a much-needed study for any scholar interested in this time period or in western naval and maritime history."—Choice

"A full-dress history of the Seven Years’ War as a whole, from the French perspective. . . . The focus is almost entirely upon grand strategy, diplomacy, and economics and finance; as such it is a first-rate work of serious history."—Peyton Moss, ForeWord Magazine

"This excellent book deserves a wide audience. It far surpasses most histories of the Seven Years' War. . . . This book belongs on the shelf of anyone seriously interested in early American and Atlantic history, French maritime and naval history, and in the history of international relations in the eighteenth century."—James Pritchard, Journal of Military History

"Those interested in learning the inside story of how governments actually conduct war will find this a fascinating work, and a sobering reflection of how they probably still carry on today."—Robert Guttman, Military History

"The author weaves diplomatic and strategic issues into the overall story of the naval war."—The NYMAS Review

"Dull has written a magisterial history of the war and the role of the French Navy. . . . This history will long stand as the definitive work on the French Navy of the period."—Harold N. Boyer, Sea History

"An impressive and an important addition to the literature. The French Navy and the Seven Years' War will for years to come be an essential addition to the library of specialists and students of eighteenth century naval (and diplomatic) history alike."—Olaf Uwe Janzen, Northern Mariner

"Illuminates the conduct of naval operations by situating them in the wider contexts of the diplomatic negotiations and the land war that were unfolding simultaneously…. A firm, carefully-argued work, which turns out to be far more than a study of the French navy."—Geoffrey Symcox, H-Net Book Reviews

Table of Contents

List of maps
1. 1748-1754 An Uneasy Peace
   The War of the Austrian Succession and the Decline of Franco-British Relations
   The French Navy and Its Legacy of Failure
   From Competition to Crisis in North America
2. 1755 Countering the British Assault
   Louis XV and His Council of State
   Negotiations Fail and Both Sides Prepare for War
   The Unsuccessful Attacks by Boscawen and Braddock
   The Naval War Widens
   The Question of Hanover
   Preparing the French Navy for War
3. 1756 Franch Takes the Offensive
   Victory at Minorca
   The Capture of Oswego
   Machault's Accomplishments
   The First Stage of the Diplomatic Revolution
   The Opening of Hostilities in Central Europe
4. 1757 To the Edge of Victory
   The King Sacrifices Machault
   New France Spared
   Disaster Deferred
   The Second Treaty of Versailles
   The Convention of Klosterzeven
   Rossbach, Leuthen, and Their Consequences
5. 1758 A Year of Depression
   Louisbourg Lost, Canada Again Spared
   The French Navy's Other Commitments
   On the Defensive in Germany
   The Dismissal of Bernis
6. 1759 The Annus Horribilis
   New Arrangements with Austria and Plans to Invade Britian
   The Caribbean and the Carnatic
   The Assault on Canada
   Continental War and Diplomacy
   Financial Crisis, Naval Disaster, and the King's Personal Loss
7. 1760 Adversity and Revival
   Discussions at The Hague
   The French Navy's Reduced Budget
   The End of French Canada
   The Revival of the French Army in Germany
8. 1761 Saving the Navy's Future
   Preserving the Initiative in Germany
   The Opening of Negotiations
   France Loses Peace but Gains Another Ally
   Spain Enters the War
   Choiseul Becomes Naval Minister
9. 1762 Military Failures, Diplomatic Success
   An Inglorious Final Campaign
   The Search for Peace Resumes
   The Best Peace Possible
10. Epilogue Toward a New War, 1763-1774
   The Duc de Choiseul and the Rebuilding of the French Navy
   The "Secret du Roi" and the American Revolution
Appendix A: French Ships of the Line, 1 January 1744
Appendix B French Ships of the Line, 1 January 1749
Appendix C: French Ships of the Line and Frigates, 1 January 1755
Appendix D: Order of Battle, 1 June 1755
Appendix E: Order of Battle, 1 June 1756
Appendix F: Order of Battle, 1 June 1757
Appendix G: Order of Battle, 1 June 1758
Appendix H: Order of Battle, 1 June 1759
Appendix I: Order of Battle, 1 June 1760
Appendix J: Order of Battle, 1 June 1761
Appendix K: Order of Battle, 1 June 1762
Appendix L: French Ships of the Line and Frigates, 1 January 1763


2005 France Amériques Prize winner
2005 John Lyman Book Award, sponsored by the North American Society for Ocean History, Canadian naval and maritime history category honorable mention