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October 2004
360 pages  

6.125 x 9.25
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Breaking the Backcountry
The Seven Years’ War in Virginia and Pennsylvania, 1754–1765
Ward, Matthew
An exciting history of the Seven Years’ War (i.e., The French and Indian War) from the perspective of the region in which it began and most affected the early U.S.: the backcountry communities of Virginia and Pennsylvania.

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Matthew C. Ward is a lecturer in the department of history at the University of Dundee, Scotland.
“Fascinating. . . . Highly recommended for academic and public libraries.”--John Burch, Library Journal, Oct. 1, 2003

"Brings us face-to-face with the grim realities of war on the eighteenth-century frontier of Pennsylvania and Virginia. This vivid portrait of a fragile, fragmented society under terrible strain contributes greatly to our knowledge of the Seven Years’ War in America."—Fred Anderson, author of Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754–1766

"A valuable contribution to the burgeoning field of frontier studies; it also demonstrates that the world war ignited there 250 years ago exerted a profound and lasting impact upon the region and its diverse peoples."—Stephen Brumwell, author of Redcoats: The British Soldier and War in the Americas, 1755–1763

"Carefully and movingly evokes a much-neglected portion of the early American experience. . . . Bends our attention toward great weaknesses within the first British empire, even as it reached the apogee of its military achievement."—Gregory Dowd, University of Michigan

“In gripping detail, [Ward] tells the story of a decade of devastation and settler-refugee flight produced by the war and its aftermath. . . . His engrossing writing style and crisp analysis should appeal to general readers as well as advanced history students and college professors. . . . Brings to life all the protagonists on America’s western frontier.” --Stanley H. Palmer, History: Reviews of New Books, Spring 2004

“A sweeping portrait and incisive analysis of a neglected period of history. . . . Traces the origin of the struggle to control the western fringes of the Colonies and relates it to the larger conflict that enveloped the great powers of the European continent. “ --Barrett R. Richardson, Hampton Roads (VA) Virginian-Pilot, 5/2/04

“An important work for understanding the complexities of war and society along the colonial frontier.” --Stanley J. Adamiak, H-War, June 2004

“This examination of the effects of the French and Indian War in Virginia and Pennsylvania is not a book to suit people who want their history to be romanticized or heroic. This is the dirty and often disturbing stuff of the real past.”—Brent Tarter, Richmond Times Dispatch, October 10, 2004

Seamlessly combining military, social, diplomatic, and Indian history, Ward persuasively demonstrates how the war ‘fundamentally transformed both colonies.’ . . highly relevant to academic, public, and classroom discussions of the war’s meanings and legacies.”--David L. Preston, PA Magazine of History and Biography, April 2005

“Ward ably explains life in the backcountry, the demographics of provincial armies (including a comparison of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts soldiers), the intricacies of Native American diplomacy, the politics of colonial government, and military actions in the Ohio Valley. Scholars interested in rural life, military and social history, and Native American studies should welcome this book.”--Commonwealth

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Even as the 250th anniversary of its outbreak approaches, the Seven Years' War (otherwise known as the French and Indian War) is still not wholly understood. Most accounts tell the story as a military struggle between British and French forces, with shifting alliances of Indians, culminating in the British conquest of Canada. Scholarly and popular works alike, including James Fennimore Cooper's Last of the Mohicans, focus on the action in the Hudson River Valley and the St. Lawrence Seaway. Matthew C. Ward tells the compelling story of the war from the point of view of the region where it actually began, and whose people felt the devastating effects of war most keenly-the backcountry communities of Virginia and Pennsylvania. Previous wars in North America had been fought largely on the New England and New York frontiers. But on May 28, 1754, when a young George Washington commanded the first shot fired in western Pennsylvania, fighting spread for the first time to Virginia and Pennsylvania. Ward's original research reveals that on the eve of the Seven Years' War the communities of these colonies were isolated, economically weak, and culturally diverse. He shows in riveting detail how, despite the British empire's triumph, the war brought social chaos, sickness, hunger, punishment, and violence, to the backcountry, much of it at the hands of Indian warriors. Ward's fresh analysis reveals that Indian raids were not random skirmishes, but part of an organized strategy that included psychological warfare designed to make settlers flee Indian territories. It was the awesome effectiveness of this “guerilla” warfare, Ward argues, that led to the most enduring legacies of the war: Indian-hating and an armed population of colonial settlers, distrustful of the British empire that couldn't protect them. Understanding the horrors of the Seven Years' War as experienced in the backwoods thus provides unique insights into the origins of the American republic.


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