Though the Dutch, the Portuguese, the Spanish, the first to discover the New World, played significant roles in establishing the importance of the New World in terms of resources and opportunity, by the middle of the 18th century their presence had considerably decreased. France, who exhibited control over the northern regions of Canada, and the American colonies of England were all that was left to show for European dominance in America. North America itself was only a piece of the larger picture of the race for global empire between France and England. After years of direct war, England and France entered a type of “cold war”, where gaining spheres of influence and military power was the means of competition over direct combat.
Once English and French domination of America emerged from the rest of the European powers, England was no longer disinterested in America. “Benign neglect” from the English crown turned into extreme interest for the natural resources and manufacturing capability of America, and Great Britain sought to use America to fuel England economically more-so than it had. The economy in America became regulated and reintroduced to England’s itself in order to compete with France. The French government was not able to use its colonies in North America as effectively as the British had.
France was largely unable to gather together the resources from Canada and properly mobilize it in a way that the French government could use it. The colonies in Canada had stricter immigration policies than the British colonies did, so the man power available was not as great as the great populations of the American colonies. The colonies in America were soundly structured politically, and the Great Awakening served to culturally unite all “Americans” as opposed to the Canadian colonies, where conflict within governments caused major problems for the colonists themselves as well as French government, who could not utilize their resources as readily. Ironically, because the French government was unable to mobilize its own subjects, it became more successful in manipulating the American Indians against the English colonies, with who the Indians were already in frequent clashes.
In the same way the United States and the Soviet Union battled each other by extended spheres of influence and causing conflicts throughout the world, the French and British governments went to war North America as well as Europe: the French and Indian War, or the Seven Years War, erupted. Though Great Britain was largely unsuccessful at the beginning of the French and Indian War, including the surrender of future American President George Washington at Fort Necessity, a leadership change led to greater triumphs. After British General James Wolfe captured Quebec in 1759, the French ultimately surrendered to the British and ended the nine years of war (the British fought seven of the years).
The terms of the Treaty of Paris were particularly harsh, with all territories of Canada being given to England, but the result of the French and Indian War would also play an infinitely significant role in world affairs in the coming years. American colonists, subjects to the crown in England, had played a major role in British victory. Because of this, colonists were sure that the end of benign neglect and American aid in the war meant the colonies would be a more important part in the British Empire. The terms of the Treaty of Paris left the French waiting for revenge, and the discontent of the snubbed colonists that manifested itself in the American Revolution coupled with this French animosity led to American independence.
“The British Empire before the Revolution” by Lawrence Gipson
College Level Lectures