Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766 by Fred Anderson Rothdas book review RSS
5.0 Stars

This is a simply excellent piece of work. One measure of its success is that after reading 700 pages of non-fiction, I was sad that the book was over and wished that it could continue on to cover more of history. The time period is meticulously researched, and the writing is clear, detailed, engaging, and thoughtful. Anderson's mastery of the subject is evident throughout the book, and really shines when he covers the details behind some of history's set stories (e.g. Washington vs Jumonville, Wolfe at Quebec). I was also greatly pleased by his coverage of the cultural factors in the struggle, and how they explain so much of the conflict and its results.

If I have one small quibble, it is that I would have liked modern, clearer maps (rather than, or perhaps in addition to, using the maps from the day).

Editor Note: 4-20-2018: *Vague Ramble Warning Engaged* Out of this entire 700 pages, one of the bits that has stuck with me and provided useful grist for further thought is this one little section near the end of the book, where he writes about the British Empire taking possession of various Western Hemisphere colonies towards the end of the war. In some places like the Caribbean this went extremely well for them, with the British rapidly and conquering and integrating the colonies with relatively little resistance or unrest or bloodshed. And that part makes sense, in that the British taking over the area from the French simplified or sorted out or made the economy of the region flow much more smoothly and rationally. Previously the area had been divided by the mercantile system, so that islands that were close to each and other and natural trading partners could not legally trade with each other. So you have one island making sugar, and another island 100 miles away with the distilleries to turn the sugar into rum, but because of the political divide and the mercantile system they weren't able to trade with each other without having to first ship the goods to their home capitals, pay various import duties, ship the goods back, etc. And then predictably smugglers came into the picture to circumvent those hurdles, which then were combated with enforcement ships and officers, and people being bribed and hanged and shot, etc. etc. So the previous situation didn't make sense and involved all sorts of wastage. But when the Brits took over all of the islands, suddenly the islands could trade with each other in a far more efficient and rational manner. Farms and factories were booming, the local elites were raking in profits, and basically everyone was happy with the new situation even though they had been conquered by their European foes.

And this contrasted with the attempted British occupation of the Philippines. The Brits were high from their Caribbean successes, and launched even more adventurous campaigns in the colonial theater. And they were initially successful in militarily taking over Manila. However, from there things went wrong, and they ran into the sort of bloody resistance that would re-occur in various forms for another 200+ years in the Philippines. And there are a lot of reasons for that, but one of them is that the British occupation there didn't make sense, it had terrible feng-shui, it didn't make anyone's life easier. They had cultural differences and disconnects and lack of connections, they arrived in the area with a razing, they didn't make the trade and economies of the area work any better by their arrival. So the Brits were able to hold on to Manila until the peace treaty, but they never fully controlled the country and even their brief time there was marked by conflict and massacres.

Which then brings us to the modern day, and the various fiascos in Iraq and Afghanistan, and books like the Forever War and Crossing Zero and, well, Fiasco. And this is somewhat simplistic, but I think part of the reason for these failures is similar to what is outlined in the above. There is no feng-shui to them, they try and fight against the dao. Iraq was designed by the Brits to be ungovernable, that's why (or part of why) it is so difficult to govern. And I don't know that I have any concrete suggestions at this point, except to think more broadly about how places can be changed/organized so that our efforts there aren't constantly about trying to push water uphill. Phrased another way, if there is not some cleverness to the post war plan it is a bad plan. Anyway! Just some random thoughts that were sparked today while listening to the Hell of a way to Die podcast.