Walter Borneman’s The French and Indian War: Deciding the Fate of North America is a very good popular history of this crucial war in not only American, but world history. It is a short and concise retelling of the war.
Here is a brief synopsis of the book from its back cover:
In the summer of 1754, deep in the wilderness of western Pennsylvania, a very young George Washington suffered his first military defeat, and a centuries-old feud between Great Britain and France was rekindled. The war that followed would be fought across virgin territories, from Nova Scotia to the forks of the Ohio River, and it would ultimately decide the fate of the entire North American continent – not just for Great Britain and France but also for the Spanish and Native American populations.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Borneman does an excellent job of describing the major events of the war. If you are looking for an in-depth analysis of the war, this book is not for you. But, if you are trying to understand the reasons for and the consequences of the war in a brief work, this book is for you.
I have never truly understood why the war is called what it is called because the French and the Indians were the losers in this war. After all, the French lost almost all of their North American and Caribbean colonies and the American Indians lost some territory that would eventually lead to losing all of their territory. The British and the American colonists came out as the biggest winners – the British gained some valuable colonies and the Americans were freed from one of their greatest threats – French influence and expansion in North America.
Bornemans’ representations of the major players in the war are accurate and honest. British General Braddock is justifiably criticized for his poor tactics in his defeat on the way to Fort Duquesne. British General Wolfe is rightly criticized for his enormous ego and his lapses in judgment during the Quebec campaign. Borneman equally criticizes the French for their shortsightedness in not reinforcing their Canadian colony in rebuffing the British attempts to invade – in fact, their efforts bordered on incompetence.
Borneman also does not shy away from Analyzing America’s earliest heroes. For example, Major Robert Rogers of Rogers’ Rangers fame was not the perfect Boy Scout that many of us have come to believe partly from Spencer Tracy’s portrayal of him in Northwest Passage. Rogers was involved in some questionable land speculation issues in the war. Borneman portrays a young George Washington as a surly – maybe even insubordinate – member of General Forbes’ campaign to capture Fort Duquesne in 1758.
If you are looking for a good overview of the French and Indian War, Borneman’s book is a perfect choice.