Sunday, 1 January 2012

Geographical confusion

The Seven Years’ War (1756-63), where Britain and her allies fought France and her allies, may be considered the first-ever World War. It was a series of different and widely separated campaigns. In eastern Germany Frederick the Great of Prussia battled against the massed armies of France, Russia and Austria, while in western Germany largely mercenary forces paid for with British money held the French at bay. Meanwhile at sea and in North America, the West Indies and India British expeditions took on the French and Spanish. The European wars were effectively drawn, but overseas Britain gained decisive victories. In the midst of all this, King George II of England died (being, incidentally, the first English monarch ever to live beyond the age of 70) and was succeeded by his grandson, George III, who was painfully aware of his inexperience and lack of training for the job, but determined to bring the war to an end.

In 1762 peace talks began in Paris. That September the Duke of Newcastle, who had recently resigned from the government, went to ask the king how the peace negotiations were progressing. George told him that they were going very well, since the French had agreed to demolish all their forts on the Mississippi - or, as Newcastle noted, “His Majesty was pleased to say the Ganges, but I apprehend the King mistook the Ganges for some other river”.
I suppose we should be glad that he got a river at all, even if it was one on the other side of the world!

(Source: Sir Lewis Namier: “England in the Age of the American Revolution”; chapter 5)

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