Mostly when people hear the phrase the “First World War”, they think of the conflict of 1914-1918 between the Allies (France, Russia, England, Serbia, Romania, Portugal, the United States of America, Italy, Japan) and the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire). However, it all depends on which period in history you’re speaking of. Would not the Trojan War have seemed to be a “World War” to the Greeks and Trojans? The Persian Wars to the Greeks and Persians? or the Crusades to Muslim and Western Crusader Knight? It’s reasonable to say that we have experienced more than just two “World Wars” in our history as a planet.

 The Seven Years War certainly could have been considered the first truly modern “World War”. That would make the Napoleonic Wars (1792-1815) to include the War of 1812, the second such “World War”. Again, it’s all a matter of perspective with regards to your world view and the image of the world to those who lived thru such conflicts. By original definition a “World War” is a conflict involving all the major powers at the time and that portion of the globe they control and are aware of. If you look at things thru, say, the eyes of those people who were around during the afore mentioned Seven Years War and the Napoleonic Wars, then it would sem like two global conflicts had occured within twenty nine years of each other. Remember, there was a gap of almost exactly twenty years between the final peace treaty at Versailles in 1919 and the beginning of the “Second World War” in September of 1939.

 Of course no reliable records exist of the loss of life during the Seven Years War, we can only assume it was somewhere on the order of a few million, basing this off of the known populace of Europe, those colonies belonging to the involved European powers, and the Native Americans used by both sides in the American colonies. Now the accepted number for the Napoleonic Wars, all told in twenty three years of almost continous warfare is between 8,000,000 and 10,000,000. This at a time when the best way to kill a man was either to shoot him with a musket that, if it fired properly, was accurate to fifty yards, unless you used the bayonet which would be a surer method. That number of 8 or 10 million is also including those slaves in Haiti that were mass murdered using an early, primitive form of gas chamber by the French under the direct order of Napoleon Bonaparte. The reasoning being that in his “New France” there was no such thing as slavery, and thus no slaves, the best method to get rid of slaves to his mind? Kill them like you would cattle. Of course that isn’t anything new to history, nor would it have been to those living during Napoleon’s conquest of Continental Europe, genocide has been a constant part of these “world wars” throughout history. Usually do to the villification of the enemy and their populace by each side, and the ideas of racial and religious purity that existed.

 But I’m digressing from my point. Both the Seven Years War and the Napoleonic Wars were true “world wars” as people of today would think of them due to a few factors that not too many outside of historical circles and those as myself with too much time on their hands and nonexistent social lives, would take into consideration.

First, the involvement of all the major powers at the time. On the one side you had England, Prussia, those German states which owed allegiance to those nations, and the English colonies and Native Americans who swore loyalty to King George. On the other you had the Kingdom of France, Russia, Austria, including those nations which owed allegiance to Austria at the time, Spain, for a limited time in the war, and those Native American allies and colonies thereof.

Secondly, the conflict zone spanned from the battlefields of Continental Europe to the guerilla fighting in the forests of the Americas, all the way to the Pacific Ocean and the European colonies there. Now that is truly a global conflict. It led, in no small amount of true and  proper end result to the American Revolution, then on to the Napoleonic Wars. It was due to the loss of the province of Quebec, and the territories that Prussia took from both Austria and France, as well as those taken from Spain, by now only being propped up by France and Austria.

Thirdly, and the saddest truth of all, the Seven Years War created many of the lasting national and racial hatreds that we still live with today. If there had been no Seven Years War, and thus no Napoleonic Wars, there would have been no break up of the Holy Roman Empire. The effects of which led to an easier task of unifying all the German states by the Prussians.  Those territorial losses, including the loss in human life, treasure, and insults to national pride and honor led to not only the revolt of American colonials, regarding taxes which they saw as unfair, even though they were justified if one looks closely, and the French Revolution of a starving people in a nation which had lost pride in their country and government. The war proved that the system of politcal alliances amongst the major powers could have dire consequences for the rest of the world as well.

Followup posts will follow as soon as I have time to put them together.