If you're looking for a history of the Seven Years War without the beginning or the end, this could be the book for you. Frank McLynn has done a year-as-turning-point book before (about 1066). This time, he has set out to prove that 1759 had a decisive effect on world history. The impact of the Seven Years War is not in dispute and it has long been recognised that 1759 was the central year, not merely in chronological terms. What is questionable is whether attempting to examine the year in isolation is sensible. Actually omitting any coverage of the earlier years of the war is hardly an option, so McLynn does describe background events in Britain, France and the theatres of conflict, albeit in a rather perfunctory way. The events after 1759 receive barely any attention at all, beyond a very swift and sweeping conclusion which suggests major developments which may have been contingent on the events of 1759. One such is the creation of the United States. That is a perfectly respectable viewpoint (to some extent, rather an obvious one, as French victory in North America would have meant big changes for the thirteen colonies), but McLynn never actually argues the case for this, or any of his other conclusions, thus rather undermining the whole point of the book. What is left, however, is more than a simple narrative of military events. McLynn ties in the campaigning with cultural developments of the year; thus, we are introduced to John Wesley, Edmund Burke, Voltaire, Samuel Johnson, Adam Smith and other luminaries of the Scottish Enlightenment (McLynn is Scottish and it does tend to show in his choice of emphasis). In general, the connections between the cultural titans of 1759 and the prosecution of the war are negligible, for obvious reasons. Even if Jeffery Amherst, commanding British forces in America, had an inclination to read Johnson's "Rasselas", it is highly unlikely that he ever heard of it during 1759 and it certainly will not have had any impact on his plan of campaign. Moreover, the books published by Smith, Voltaire and the rest in 1759 were themselves not inspired by the events of that year, but may have germinated over years, or even decades, making this aspect of McLynn's approach even more contrived. Paradoxically, I suspect that he could write a genuinely good book on the cultural history of the era, if he could first discard the chronological straitjacket. As for the warfare, which, ultimately, is what the book is about, the result is uneven. In his favour, McLynn's writing style is readable and usually clear, although the book is far from free from errors of editing. The war consisted of several concurrent campaigns, which, beyond the fact that Britain and France had to juggle the manpower allotments of each theatre, were independent of each other. This means either providing a continuous, chronological narrative, intertwining events from the discrete campaigns, or dealing with them separately, in individual chapters. McLynn wisely chooses the latter, mostly successfully. One does have the feeling occasionally that he is "introducing" participants to the plot, having previously made abundant reference to them, suggesting that the final order of chapters was not the one originally intended. Despite the copious bibliography, his explicit references to sources tend to come down to a rather small band. This may explain the way in which his opinions can be not only strongly expressed, but even downright contradictory; most notably, he never decides whether Amherst was a hopelessly slow and indecisive commander, or a brilliant general, whose meticulous planning made French defeat inevitable with minimal British casualties. Amherst is also awkward for McLynn for having won in 1760, rather than in 1759. Britain's most significant success in 1759 in Canada was the taking of Quebec by the forces of General Wolfe. McLynn has few good words for Wolfe, but the very format of his book gives Wolfe's posthumous victory an emphasis beyond its merits, clearly the opposite of what McLynn actually intended. McLynn's worst failing, however, is his constant desire to read (out loud) the minds of the participants in the events of 1759, a characteristic apparent in his earlier works. Wolfe's undesirable nature was betrayed, apparently, by the shape of his nose. When Ferdinand of Brunswick nearly drowned in a ditch, that was "significant" for what it said about his mentality (never mind the significance of the fact that he was the commander-in-chief and had a deputy of decidedly questionable competence). The historian McLynn badly needs to lose the inner psychoanalyst. In terms of presentation, over which the author probably has little control, the slack editing has been mentioned already. The book contains a number of plates, many of them taken from oil paintings, but reproduced in monochrome. These should be in colour, or, being of questionable usefulness, should probably have been omitted altogether. The money saved could have been spent on better maps. The map of the American tribes is good, but another map, with place-names, is needed (not all names are unchanged since 1759). A map of the German campaign is essential, as is a better map of India. The usefulness of the index is dubious, if the treatment of "Amherst" is representative of the rest. Beyond doubt, the best chapter is the last one, dealing with Quiberon Bay, so, to that extent, the book is worth reading to the end.