DURING the Austrian war of 1741-48, England and France fought each other rather pointlessly in Germany, in Canada, and in India. An intractable young clerk at Madras, named Clive, obtained military employment at this time. French interests in India were guided by Dupleix, who made alliances with Indian princes, lent French contingents to turn the scale in Indian wars, and gained territory and privileges for his government. The English followed the same policy, but with little success until, in 1751, Clive volunteered to seize a key position, Arcot. He held it for seven weeks against odds of twenty to one, and then won a series of victories which caused Dupleix's recall and gained a great reputation for the English.
Meanwhile in the far West the French were occupying the wild country between Lake Erie and the Ohio, and a British force which tried to check them was cut to pieces. Chicago, Detroit, and Pittsburgh were represented by no more than blockhouses in the woodlands.
When Frederick of Prussia challenged the enemies who were planning his destruction in 1756 he was able to call on England for support under a recent treaty of alliance, and because their colonial rivalry made it inevitable that England should fight France. The English government of the day was feeble, and the war began with British defeats in Germany, the Mediterranean, India, and Canada. The great William Pitt then became Secretary of State in 1757; his policy was ruinously expensive but it was vigorous, and he took expert advice from Admiral Anson and Field-Marshal Ligonier. With his haughty features, his organ-like voice and disdain of pettiness, the Great Commoner inspired the House of Commons and the country and browbeat his Cabinet colleagues. He was incomparably the greatest of war ministers. Clive had already conquered Bengal at Plassey (1757), and the French in India were finally beaten by Coote at Wandewash (1760). Canada was invaded in 1758 by the three possible routes- up the St. Lawrence, by Lake Champlain and by Lake Ontario. Wolfe's marvellous victory at Quebec in 1759 was completed by the arrival of a British fleet next year and the fall of Montreal. Sea power, without which neither Bengal nor Canada could have been taken and held, was affirmed by the naval victories of Hawke and Boscawen.
Meanwhile Pitt had been " conquering America in Germany " by subsidising Frederick lavishly and absorbing the strength of France. George III., on succeeding in 1760 to the throne of an England which was reeling towards bankruptcy, was glad to lose Pitt's services in 1761 and to make peace behind Frederick's back in 1763. France-by the Peace of Paris-was to retain her stations in India unfortified and to surrender Canada, her other North American territories in the Mississippi basin (east of the river to England, west of it to Spain), several West Indian islands and some West African ports useful for the slave trade. She might still have regained everything, but the wars of the next half-century confirmed the results of the Seven Years' War.