57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
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As with all books in the "Pivotal Moments in American History" series, this book is exceedingly well written. David Hackett Fischer [Washington's Crossing] has superbly edited this work and his 3 page editor's note is itself, worth the price of the book. Dartmouth Professor of History, Colin Calloway has closely examined 1763, one of the most critical years in American History in his book, THE SCRATCH OF A PEN: 1763 AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF NORTH AMERICA. This one is sure to take its place on the "essential reading" list of American history lovers.
The book derives its name from historian Francis Parkman, who wrote regarding the 1763 Treaty of Paris at the conclusion of the Seven Years War, "half a continent changed hands at the scratch of a pen". What is commonly referred to in America as the French and Indian War was in actuality, the first World War. It was fought on 4 continents and 3 oceans around the globe. Its' participants included not only the British and French, but Americans, Canadians, American Indians, Prussians, Austrians, Russians, Spaniards and East Indians as well.
Nearly a decade of war left both Britain and France in economic ruin. Britain, being victorious, tried to extricate itself from financial crisis by attempting to simultaneously cut costs (reducing gifts the Indians had grown so accustomed to receiving from the French) and increasing its revenue by raising taxes (on the colonials), which NEVER works. Cutting costs led in part to sparking an Indian war, and raising taxes led to an all out revolt by the colonies. Ultimately, Britain would be unable to benefit from its' newly won empire.
Calloway shows in explicit detail how the 1763 Peace of Paris Treaty had a much more tumultuous effect upon the peoples of North America than the war itself. Britain tried to divide its newfound empire into two pieces, one for its colonists and one for the Indian tribes. The colonists, however, had a much different view. They saw their hard fought victory in the war as giving them the right to expand into the newly conquered territory, to itself relieve some its financial burden through land speculation and settlement.
In an attempt to quell the growing anarchy in the new territory, Britain engaged in perhaps one of the first instances of bio-terrorism by purposely infecting Indians with small pox. Though successful in "thinning the herd" so to speak, British lack of government intervention and control in the territory spurred anarchy among both the Indians and the settlers.
Calloway has brilliantly defined both the short and long-term effects the Peace of Paris had on every venue of North America, from Hudson Bay to Florida and Cuba, and Nova Scotia to the Louisiana Territory. For a much better understanding of American history and the causes that pushed the colonies towards independence, this is essential reading. Professor Calloway holds the reader in his grasp with every page. The text flows nicely and is capped off with an exhaustive bibliography that will surely add to one's reading list.
For as much as I truly loved this book, I do have one complaint. On page 117, this historian with a magnificent proficiency in writing, pierced my soul when he failed to contain himself from interpolating his own political essence upon current events, with just one brief sentence. I won't give too much away, as I don't want to dissuade anyone from reading this extraordinary work. But if Professor Calloway should ever happen to read this review, I say to you sir, you are a brilliant writer. Your work here is superb. Please don't blemish such a brilliant work with your own leanings. As you know, the purpose of the historian is to record and report the facts, not to color them.
There, now that I have that off my chest, let me conclude by saying, I absolutely loved this book. It has given critical insight to not only the causes behind the revolution, but how the Peace of Paris Treaty of 1763 transformed the lives of so many then, and countless millions since. Do not miss out on reading this book.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
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Perhaps the long shadow of Francis Parkman has discouraged historians from writing about the French and Indian War (Seven Year's War). Whatever the reason it's good to see from the publication of several books that Americans are taking a renewed interest in the pre-revolutionary period when the British were triumphant and the Indians still counted as a political force.
It's past time for a thorough revision of Parkman -- who was ungenerous with the Indians although I thrilled as a young reader to his descriptions of their ferocity -- for example, the "insensate fury" of the Iroquois. Actually, the Iroquois were less insensate than they were astute.
Calloway omits the bloody details and vivid writing of Parkman but he gives us a thorough picture of what happened in the wake of the English victory over the French in North America. In particular he focuses on the frontier and the built-in conflict of American settlers, British policy, and the Indian tribes who either went down to defeat with the French or were betrayed by perfidious Albion. They made their point, however, in Pontiac's War and by clearing white settlers from the frontier. But their numbers were declining and they would soon be overwhelmed.
This is a good book about the issues of the frontier between Whites and Indians. In addition, there's a good account of the French movement from Canada to Louisiana and the Spanish rule in Florida and the trans-Mississippi.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Lehigh History Student
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This book lives up to its series title. The Treaty of 1763 was the start of the American nation. The fall out of the treaty created several events that would lead to the revolution. From rising taxes to the Proclamation of 1763 the colonists were being given ample reasons to rise up. Calloway who is a Native American historian focuses on the rise of the Indians especially Pontiac's rebellion near Detroit. He provides a condemnation of Francis Parkman who virtually ignores the Indians in his account of the 7 years war. Overall if you are looking for a book that explains why the American Revolution began this is an excellent place to start and arguably the most pivotal moment in our history as it started the creation of the United States.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
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This concise and well written book deals with the North American consequences of British victory in the Seven Years War. The peace settlement and its sequelae contained the seeds of The American Revolution and are often discussed as a prelude to the Revolution. Most standard accounts of the period or histories of the Revolution discuss the impact of the peace settlement on the British colonies, the changing nature of British Imperial policies in the colonies, and the major effect on the relationship between the colonies and Britain proper. Rather than repeat this standard discussion, Calloway offers a broader and complementary survey of the impact of the post-war settlement on North American communities usually regarded as peripheral to the main story. Drawing on an impressive amount of recent scholarship, Calloway discusses the consequences of the peace settlement on Native American communities from the eastern seaboard to the Mississippi valley, the fate of French Canadians in both Quebec and the more peripheral parts of the North American French possessions, and even Spanish colonial administrators taking over Louisiana. Most attention is devoted to Native Americans, Calloway's specialty. The retreat of the French deprived many Native American communities of the diplomatic leverage inherent in playing the off the British against the French. Coupled with changes in commercial penetration made possible by the economically vigorous British Empire, there were huge changes in the lives of Native American communities all across the continent. Both in the case of Indian affairs and British administration of Quebec, the efforts of the British to control events and ensure stability had considerable negative consequences for the British relationship with the colonies. This book is an introduction and has an excellent bibliography which interested readers can use to pursue these topics in depth.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Jason LS Raia
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Continuing the Pivotal Moments in American History series edited by David Hackett Fischer, The Scratch of a Pen argues that the French and Indian War was one of the most important events in American history. Now most Americans, woefully ignorant of their own national history, imagine that the French and Indian War was, as the name deceitfully implies, a minor skirmish between the French and the Indians. In fact, it was part of a world war where eighteenth century superpowers France and Great Britain faced off for supremacy.
"British and French, Americans and Canadians, American Indians, Prussians, Austrians, Russians, Spaniards, and East Indians moguls fought the war, and conflicts had been waged one land and sea, in North America, the Caribbean Islands, West Africa, India, and continental Europe." The result was British victory with the Peace of Paris of 1763. Colin G. Calloway, of Dartmouth College, convincingly argues that everything changed after that.
France loses its North American empire with Canada and all land east of the Mississippi River going to the British while everything west of the mighty river was ceded to the Spanish. Most affected by the Paris Peace deliberations were those who were not even represented at the table--American Indians, Acadians, and the American colonists.
For the Natives who had maintained good relations with the French, it was the beginning of the end. Much of the land that France ceded on both sides of the Mississippi and north of the Great Lakes was in fact Indian territory. This would lead to two history changing independence movements, that by the Indians in Pontiac's Rebellion and the other by the American colonists. Though Pontiac's Rebellion would fail, in 1783 another Peace of Paris would transform the map once again, establishing a new nation, the United States of America.
The Scratch of a Pen is an important contribution on a subject too few Americans understand. Calloway also deserves credit for his analysis of the effects of the French and Indian War on the Indians themselves. Though history cannot be changed, it is imperative that we understand it.