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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mine's a pint of the black stuff...
1759 was the year Arthur Guinness first started brewing stout and porter in Dublin - for many Irish people (like me) this is the most important event of 1759 (it does get a mention in McLynn's book). I was fascinated to see what were people talking about in 1759 in the pubs while they were sampling this new brew when I bought this book.
First, may I say that I did...
Published on 22 July 2004 by EFMOL

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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing account of "The Year of Victories"
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...
Published on 13 Jun 2004 by O. G. M. Morgan


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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing account of "The Year of Victories", 13 Jun 2004
By 
O. G. M. Morgan (Hants, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: 1759: The Year Britain Became Master of the World (Hardcover)
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The First World War?, 10 Mar 2010
By 
S Wood (Scotland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Frank McLynn is one of those history writers who get around a fair bit. No specializing on one period, or country, as the subjects of his previous books from Napoleon, Villa and Zapata: A Biography of the Mexican Revolution and Stanley: Dark Genius of African Exploration make amply clear. In this book it is not a historical personage who is brought under McLynns scrutiny but a year: 1759; and a conflict: the war between Britain and France which raged at sea, in India, the Caribbean, Europe and North America.

Each theatre of war is put into some context, with the events leading up to 1759 being summarized. Events covered include those in the Caribbean including the invasions of Guadeloupe and Martinique; the fighting between the French and the British (along with the Native Americans and Colonists on both sides) in North America leading to General Wolfe's victory at Quebec; the battle of Minden in the western part of Germany; the fighting in India around Pondicherry and Madras; and the battles at sea including those at Lagos bay and Quiberon bay. There are a number of maps, which unfortunately are less than brilliant: key places in the narrative being omitted, and one map (for Quebec) had me scratching my head a little until I figured out that the scale is out by a factor of ten!

McLynn is a supremely confident narrator, perhaps too confident and definitely a little bit too opinionated for my taste, but to his credit he does lay out alternative views of key incidents. A large part of the work is taking up with historical personages, including Pitt the Elder, the Duke of Newcastle, Louis XV, Madame Pompadour. He is particularly interesting on General Wolfe, not a particularly attractive chap; and there is an interesting chapter on Rogers, of Rogers Rangers, an early foray into the murderous world of special operations.

At the beginning of each of the eleven chapters McLynn sidetracks to consider the literature of the times, including such diverse writers as Adam Smith (The Theory of Moral Sentiments), Lawrence Sterne (The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy), Voltaire (Candide) and Samuel Johnson (The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia). These fascinating asides put the authors and their works into historical and literary context, and were one of the highlights of the book even though McLynn is a little po-faced about Lawrence Sternes masterly shaggy-dog story.

Undoubtedly 1759 was an important year in British and global history, but one is left feeling that McLynn overplays his hand with selling the books subtitle: "The Year Britain Became Master of the World". I think there is more of a case for calling it an important year on that journey, but that Britain's paramount global position wasn't achieved until after the Industrial Revolution and the Revolutionary Wars (1789-1815). A fluidly written piece of narrative history, that is skewed towards the historical figures and battles at the expense of a deeper understanding of social and economic factors. Still an interesting read.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mine's a pint of the black stuff..., 22 July 2004
This review is from: 1759: The Year Britain Became Master of the World (Hardcover)
1759 was the year Arthur Guinness first started brewing stout and porter in Dublin - for many Irish people (like me) this is the most important event of 1759 (it does get a mention in McLynn's book). I was fascinated to see what were people talking about in 1759 in the pubs while they were sampling this new brew when I bought this book.
First, may I say that I did enjoy this book, but perhaps not as much as I expected.
Let's deal with the good points first. I haven't read McLynn's 1066 book so the author's effort at a defining book on a particular year was a new idea for me. While many parts of the book are quite brilliant in my view, McLynn doesn't quite pull off a "great" or "masterpiece" with this book. The descriptions of Quebec, Minden, and Quiberon Bay are brilliant. The detail and the description of the principle characters on both sides of each conflict are well described as is the relationship with Native American/Canadians in the Quebec siege. Wolfe and Montcalm are fascinating characters and you will get a well written account of the year 1759 for its part in what is often called the "French and Indian Wars". Minden and especially Quiberon Bay are described in fine detail for the amateur historian - McLynn has a knack with keeping the drama up in each event. The book is worth the purchase price for this alone.
However, there are some negative points that I wish to mention. First, it is inexcusable in this age of spell-checkers that elementary grammer and spelling mistakes still make it to the printed version of the book. If I can spot them, how tough can it be for the editor of the book to do so. There are only 5 or 6 - but annoying nonetheless.
The author also breaks up events - for example the Quebec siege is described over several chapters but are interupted by other events. I personally would have preferred if each item was described in its entirety. Bonnie Prince Charlie, an almost insignificant player in 1759, gets a prominant role - not in proportion to the rest of the event of 1759. Also, the raid by Roger's Rangers (less than 200 men) to kill a few Native Indians gets a whole chapter to itself - again I question McLynn's balance of combining these events with the more defining events mentioned above. I also found that some of the introductions to several chapters, which were presented in italics, to be rather off the point (eg Voltaire) until McLynn somehow ties them in to events of the day with almost the last sentence of each introduction. One gets the impression that while 1759 was indeed a significant year, McLynn needed to fill the book out a bit more with lesser events.
Nevertheless, the book is a good read written in a very popular historical style that the amateur historian will like. It will be interesting to see if McLynn tries another year, though I doubt that any particular year (1848 excepted) would contain enough material for a popular history book.
A few distractions apart, this book is well worth reading for students of the 18th century.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not quite the year of victories, but a good read nonetheless, 3 Feb 2005
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This review is from: 1759: The Year Britain Became Master of the World (Hardcover)
It's a good bit of narrative history by the author, well researched and well written. Perhaps the only reason it doesn't quite do what it says on the tin is that the central idea come across as a little contrived. 1066 by comparison was a significant year that completely changed England for ever. 1759 was a significant year, but not as strikingly so, and ultimately events like the American Wars of Independence undid the victory a few years later. It would be like saying 1940 was a year of victory for Germany, ignoring the fact that they ultimately lost the cause five years later.
Still worth a read though. I didn't put it down until it was read to the end.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Focus on this historical turning point, gentle reader, 15 Jun 2007
This review is from: 1759: The Year Britain Became Master of the World (Hardcover)
This book isn't perfect, but I found the character sketches alone worth the admission price.

My knowledge of this part of history is not substantial; nevertheless McLynn manages to give the reader a sufficiency of human goings-on around this pivotal year, which only helps to give weight to the costs and benefits of the achievements and losses. Some more maps would be a better investment than the monochrome plates that are reproduced, to no advantage (McLynn even debunks some of them in the text!).

The battle between the two colossi, the nascent British Empire and ancien régime, still speaks to the reader over the centuries. Ultimately, McLynn concludes, the paradoxical indecisive absolute monarch causes the French to implode. Little is said of the Bourbon King, however, and what makes the next page more interesting than the last is tracking the structural fissures that streak through the edifice of bureaucracy, ultimately manifesting in the greed and morally expedient functionaries with little to fear from the crumbling system.

The style give hint to the quantity of research, without extracting specifics where none can reasonably be drawn, for example, page 39:

"The grandiloquently styled Intendant of New France, responsible for finance and trade and -- in an evil hour -- also given responsibility for supplying the armed forces, Bigot was an embezzler and larcenist on the grand scale, who had erected a pyramid of corruption and defalcation in which major scams ran in tandem with a casual network of backhanders, sweeteners, kickbacks and payola, extending all the way down to the simple butcher and greengrocer. Vaudreuil knew all about Bigot's corruption and venality, but did nothing about it. Historians are undecided about the reason: perhaps Bigot had established a psychological ascendancy over Vaudreuil so that the Governor-General was afraid of him; maybe, having clashed bitterly with his Finance Minister when in Louisiana and having suffered for it in his career, Vaudreuil was determined not to make the same mistake again; or it could be that Vaudreuil was simply being paid to keep his mouth shut and covered his tracks well. Montcalm was to suffer hugely from the looming influence of the Intendant: this was a hidden and underrated factor in France's eventual loss of Canada."

On pages 92-3 McLynn demonstrates the stark difference in global realities between now and then: "The West Indies were widely seen as a prize supremely worth fighting for, since sugar was the biggest business of eighteenth-century colonial empires. In 1775 sugar made up one-fifth of all British imports and was worth five times Britain's tobacco imports. What this meant was that to British ministerial minds, the West Indies was a more important area than North America and Britain's great leader in 1759, William Pitt[,] explicitly stated that he thought the French sugar island of Guadeloupe was worth more than the whole of Canada and that the West Indies were worth more than North America: 'The state of existing trade in conquests of North America is extremely low; the speculations of their future are precarious, and the prospect, at the very best, very remote.' He had a point, even though a limited and unimaginative one -- since even at the time of the Boston Tea Party in 1773 the value of British imports from Jamaica was five times greater than from all of the American colonies."

The book is detailed (some might argue to a fault), and it gives a window on the world of (geo-)politics (from Pompadour to Pitt, the Wild Geese to the Compagnie des Indes Orientales, from Jacobites to Freemasons), warfare (muskets rifles and cannonade), religion (the French Jansenist heresy that her secular courts could rule over clergy; the fall of the Jesuits), and even a smattering of philosophy; perhaps the most vivid imagery comes from the lives of the ordinary people and their fates.

I recommend this book.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyable, 23 Jan 2007
By 
P. M. Dellot "Mr Peter Dellot" (Northants, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 1759: The Year Britain Became Master of the World (Hardcover)
First class read, packed full of history written in a style I personally found most agreeable.

I particularly like the way each chapter opened with a note referencing key events and happenings which also occured in this important year.

In my opinion a must for any reader interested in British history.
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1759: The Year Britain Became Master of the World
1759: The Year Britain Became Master of the World by Frank McLynn (Hardcover - 25 Mar 2004)
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