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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> States >> France

Map of Europe in 1740 showing the Kingdom of France
Capital Paris
Language(s) French, Occitan, Breton, Basque, German, Dutch
Religion Catholic

In 1752, several dragoon regiments were quartered in protestant villages of Southern France. Many Protestants emigrated, they were so numerous that some ministers in Versailles started to get worried and vainly asked for more lenient measures. In September 1753, an entire French army (55 battalions, 8 dragoon regiments) was sent to the Cévennes. In March 1754, 5,000 Protestants marched out of Nîmes and passed the border.

Population 27,000,000 inhabitants (1789 estimate)
Government Kingdom
Dependencies At the beginning of the Seven Years War, France had several colonies:
  • Antilles Françaises (French Antilles)
    • Dominique
    • Grenade
    • Guadeloupe
    • Martinique
    • Saint-Domingue
    • Saint-Vincent
    • Tobago
  • Indian Counters
    • Chandernagor
    • Karikal
    • Mahé
    • Pondichéry
    • Yanaon
  • Mascareignes
    • Isle Bourbon (present-day Réunion), counting 6,460 settlers and 30,000 slaves in 1780
    • Isle de France (present-day Île Maurice), counting 2,400 settlers and 18,000 slaves in 1766
  • Nouvelle France (New France) counting 70,000 inhabitants and consisting of
    • Acadie
    • Saint-Jean Island (now known as Prince Edward Island)
    • Royale Island (now known as Cape Breton)
    • Canada, about 54,000 inhabitants along the Saint-Lawrence River up to the Great Lakes and in Louisiane (now known as Louisiana) along the Mississipi River
  • Sénégal
  • Seychelles
Rulers King Louis XV
Army see the article French Army
Navy The French Marine Royale was the main rival of the British Navy. However, it had fewer warships. A few years after the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714), France had only 49 warships of all types. In 1739, after the vigourous recovery plan of Maurepas, the state secretary to the navy, the Marine Royale had 50 ships of the line to oppose to the 120 of the Royal Navy. In 1750, despite its losses during the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748), France had 57 ships of the line and 24 frigates. From 1755 to 1765, the French Navy planned to build 111 ships of the line, 54 frigates and a large number of smaller vessels.

For a comprehensive list of the warships of the Marine Royale, see the article French Navy

In 1747, Sweden had renewed its subsidy agreement with France.

On June 5 1741, France and Prussia had signed a 15 years long alliance in Breslau. Thus this treaty would come to an end on June 5 1756...

In 1756, when the French Court learned that Prussia had concluded a defensive alliance with Great Britain, it decided not to renew its own alliance with Prussia. Furthermore, on May 1, France signed First Treaty of Versailles with Austria which led to a total reversal of alliances.

On June 9 1756, France declared war to Great Britain. A few days later, on June 16, the French Court published this declaration of war.

Economy In France, taxes had been increased to finance Louis XV extravagant spending habits and munificences. By the end of the War of the Austrian Succession, in 1748, the French population was crumbling under the weight of these taxes. Nevetherless, M. de Machault, Minister of the Navy, presented to the Parliament a new tax with a temporary character. By a decree dated March 10 1749, Louis XV reformed the army to reduce expenses.

By May 3 1753, the opposition of the French Parliament to Louis XV's will was so severe that he began to consider war as an alternative to avoid an internal crisis.

Trade In the Mediterranean, the merchants of Marseille were fierce competitors to the British Levant Company and had seized a significant part of the commerce with Smyrna, Aleppo, Messina, Palermo, Malta, Alicante and Valencia. They had a virtual monopoly since all goods imported from the Mediterranean through other Frech ports were subject to a 20% duty. They mainly sold woolen cloth made in Saptes in the region of Carcassonne and in Villenouvette near Clermont l'Hérault. They also sold silken scarf made in Lyon, coffee from Martinique and sugar from the Antilles. In exchange, they bought cotton, silk, Angora wool, linen cloth, perfume (incense, myrrh), pharmaceutical products, base products for the production of the soap of Marseille (oil, ashes, soda). The balance of payments was favourable to the Ottoman Empire but this was counterbalanced by the activities of the merchant navy and re-exportations of a large part of the imported goods to other countries.

Since 1535, France had signed several very favourable trading conventions with the Ottoman Empire the latest of these conventions, signed in 1740, was so good that France never renegotiated its terms. In Constantinople, French merchants were exempted from a tax to be paid by all other foreign merchants. Once more, the French merchants mainly sold mid quality woolen cloth.

In North Africa, the Compagnie royale d'Afrique, created in 1741 and based in Marseille, held a monopoly and was the most important commercial partner, a role shared mainly with some Spanish trade posts. The French bought wheat, leather, tobacco, dates, figs, wool and wax; and sold fabric, weapons and paid the balance with Mexican piastres.

On the coasts of Africa (mostly the western coast but also in Madagascar and Mozambique on the eastern coast), French merchants bought slaves (about 11,000 Africans per year) and transported them to be sold in the Americas (mostly at Saint-Domingue, Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Antilles and French Guyana) or in the Mascareignes Islands. Slaves were exchanged for printed Indian cotton, alcohol, tobacco, black powder, weapons, iron bars, suet bars, knives, cauris, Chinaware... On average, 12% of the captives died during the journey to America. In the second half of the XVIIIth century, French merchants were the third most important group of slave traders, behind those of Great Britain and Portugal. Since 1741, slave trade was authorised from all French ports but the most important ports practising this trade were Nantes, La Rochelle, Le Havre and Bordeaux.

In the Indian Ocean, the Compagnie des Indes Orientales, had the monopoly of commerce with Isle de France since its early colonisation (first French settlers arrived on the island in 1721) till 1767. In 1750, local foundries were established. In 1752, a French military detachment occupied Rodrigues Island. By the time of the Seven Years' War, Isle de France exported mainly coffee.

In India, the Compagnie des Indes Orientales was realising important profits (50% on goods exported to India and 200% on those imported in India). Nevertheless, once deducted investments and military expenditure, France still had to subsidize the company. The company had fortified counters in Pondichéry (present-day Puducherry), Yanaon, Chandernagore (present-day Chandannagar), Mahé and Karikal (present-day Karaikal). It bought pepper, indigo, textiles (muslin, shawl, calico), leather, jewelry, woolen carpet and saltpetre; and sold wool, velvet, metal, glass, European liqueurs and horses.

In Burma, since 1729, the Compagnie des Indes Orientales had a counter at Syriam (present-day Thanlyin) where it bought teak to build vessels and sold muskets to the Mon Kingdom of Hanthawaddy in Lower Burma. However, when King Alaungpaya federated Upper Burma against the Mons and defeated them in 1755, he came into conflict with the French counter of Syriam. In July 1756, Alaungpaya captured Syriam after a siege of 14 months, killing its commander de Bruno and capturing some French ships. This was the end of French presence in Burma.

In Vietnam, Dupleix, governor-general of the French establishments in India, had installed a counter at Tourane (present-day Da Nang) in 1752 but his recall to France and the outbreak of the Seven Years War did not allow to maintain it.

The Compagnie des Indes Orientales also traded with China. It had a lodge in Canton (Guangzhou) where it bought tea and silk. It also imported coffee from Arabia. Because of the monopoly granted to this company all independent merchantmen also had to return by Lorient, the harbour of the company, where they had to pay duty.


Devèze, M.: L'Europe et le monde à la fin du XVIIIe siècle, Albin Michel, 1970, pp. 30-31, 64-66, 68-76, 131, 137-138, 143-145, 172-173, 177-178, 273-275, 285,291

Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II, Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 1 Pirna und Lobositz, Berlin, 1901, pp. 5-25

Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. IV, Paris, 1891, pp. 2-5, 13-14, 17

Parkman, Francis: Montcalm and Wolfe, Collier Books, New York, 1884, p. 12

Régent, Frédéric: La France et la traite négrière,

Vial, J. L.: Nec Pluribus Impar