The Scratch of a Pen: 1763 and the Transformation of North America

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In this superb volume in Oxford's acclaimed Pivotal Moments series, Colin Calloway reveals how the Treaty of Paris of 1763 had a profound effect on American history, setting in motion a cascade of unexpected consequences, as Indians and Europeans, settlers and frontiersmen, all struggled to adapt to new boundaries, new alignments, and new relationships.

Britain now possessed a vast American empire stretching from Canada to the Florida Keys, yet the crushing costs of maintaining it would push its colonies toward rebellion. White settlers, free to pour into the West, clashed as never before with Indian tribes struggling to defend their way of life. In the Northwest, Pontiac's War brought racial conflict to its bitterest level so far. Whole ethnic groups migrated, sometimes across the continent: it was 1763 that saw many exiled settlers from Acadia in French Canada move again to Louisiana, where they would become Cajuns. Calloway unfurls this panoramic canvas with vibrant narrative skill, peopling his tale with memorable characters such as William Johnson, the Irish baronet who moved between Indian campfires and British barracks; Pontiac, the charismatic Ottawa chieftain; and James Murray, Britains first governor in Quebec, who fought to protect the religious rights of his French Catholic subjects.

Most Americans know the significance of the Declaration of Independence or the Emancipation Proclamation, but not the Treaty of Paris. Yet 1763 was a year that shaped our history just as decisively as 1776 or 1862. This captivating book shows why.

Winner of the Society of Colonial Wars Book Award for 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An engrossing, gracefully written volume.... Like its companion titles in Oxford University Press' 'Pivotal Moments in American History' project, this book stresses the power of contingency and individual agnacy.... The Scratch of a Pen represents a worthy addition to the series, and a necessary read for anyone interested in how military-diplomatic events impacted society and culture in pre-Revolutionary America."—Alan Cate, Parameters

"Well crafted, scholarly, and stimulating, this book offers fresh perspectives on a signpost year."—Stephen Brumwell, American Historical Review

"An impressive achievement."—The International History Review

"What makes Calloway's work significant is the way he tells the story. He covers a vast amount of material in a small amount of space yet manages to maintain its complex nuances without confusing the reader or obscuring the event. excellent introduction to the complexity of early America. The book will give readers of all types the opportunity to understand a truly pivotal moment in American history." —Reviews in American History

"Forget the constitution and the Declaration of Independence: it was the Treaty of Paris, signed in 1763 at the close of the French and Indian War, that set the stage for the birth of America."—Atlantic Monthly

"A colonial revolution, Indian wars for independence, the cultural survival of a defeated empire...all here brought into sharp focus by Calloway's illuminating account."—Boston Globe

"A spellbinding tale of a year in American history.... In 1763, with the peace treaty that ended the French and Indian War, France and Spain handed over all the territory east of the Mississippi, as well as Canada, to the British. Calloway's enthralling chronicle follows the lives of settlers, Indians and immigrants as this new British rule affected them. He demonstrates convincingly that the seeds of the American Revolution were planted in 1763, as a near-bankrupt Britain began to impose heavy 'taxation without representation....' This first-rate cultural history, part of Oxford's Pivotal Moments in American History series, reveals that the events of 1763 changed not only the political geography of a nation but also its cultural geography, as various groups moved from one part of the country to another."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Colin Calloway's engaging and absorbing new book makes a persuasive case for adding 1763 to the short list of watershed years—among them 1492, 1607, 1776, 1861, 1929, and 1941—that have shaped America. Moving with ease from London and Paris to Detroit and New Orleans, from Indian villages to frontier settlements, from glorious visions to grubby realities, The Scratch of a Pen somehow never loses sight of the colorful cast of characters occupying center stage in that tumultuous time. These peoples come vividly to life in a fascinating tale full of profound consequences—intended, and otherwise—for the shape of things to come." —James H. Merrell, author of Into the American Woods

"In this compact and beautifully crafted book, Colin Calloway shows how mid-eighteenth-century North America stood at the vortex of global conflict and how the Seven Years War reshaped the continent's human as well political geography. By seeing epic events through Native American eyes, as well as through the eyes of the Spanish, French, and English, Calloway captures the full continent-wide drama triggered by the end of the 'great war for empire' in 1763. A resoundingly successful book."—Gary B. Nash, author of The Unknown American Revolution: The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America

"The year 1763 was a pivotal one in American history, witnessing a peace treaty that set in motion enormous changes. The Scratch of a Pen looks at how 1763 laid the groundwork for the American Revolution, but it is far richer than that. With striking clarity and graceful prose, Colin Calloway explores every nook and cranny of this extraordinary year, revealing blunders, deceit, treachery, tragedies, and triumphs that would in time turn the world upside down and change America forever."—John Ferling, author of A Leap in the Dark and Adams vs. Jefferson

"Calloway's work promises to deepen both academic and popular interest in the Seven Years War and eighteenth-century-America."—Andrew Denson, Indiana Magazine of History

"This book will enlighten many people who thought they had a reasonably solid grasp of this period in American history."—Kenneth J. Moynihan, The Historian

"For a synthesis of such great breadth, it is not only remarkable coherent, but elegant...It demonstrates that greater attention should be paid not only to the diplomatic encounters between Europeans and natives, but among native groups." -Karim M. Tiro, Diplomatic History

Publishers Weekly
Dartmouth historian Calloway (author of the outstanding One Vast Winter Count: The Native American West Before Lewis and Clark) tells a spellbinding tale of a year in American history. In 1763, with the peace treaty that ended the French and Indian War, France and Spain handed over all the territory east of the Mississippi, as well as Canada, to the British. In this one stroke, settlers both on the East Coast and on the frontier came under British rule. Calloway's enthralling chronicle follows the lives of settlers, Indians and immigrants as this new British rule affected them. He demonstrates convincingly that the seeds of the American Revolution were planted in 1763, as a near-bankrupt Britain began to impose heavy "taxation without representation." The year brought bloody skirmishes between Indians, who were being pushed off more of their lands, and settlers; Calloway also narrates the expulsion of Acadians from Nova Scotia and their resettlement in Louisiana. This first-rate cultural history, part of Oxford's Pivotal Moments in American History series, reveals that the events of 1763 changed not only the political geography of a nation but also its cultural geography, as various groups moved from one part of the country to another. B&w illus., maps. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Lucid, brief survey of the aftereffects of the French and Indian War in America. As Calloway (History/Dartmouth; One Vast Winter Count, 2003, etc.) writes, the Seven Years War lasted nine years in America, and it had the result of ending the half-century-long competition between France and Britain for control of Canada and the trans-Appalachian West. Britain fared badly at the beginning of the war, but its fate turned for the better with William Pitt's becoming de facto prime minister. Pitt articulated a simple strategy to "reduce France from an imperial power to a continental power by stripping away its colonies." In doing so, the British suffered great losses at the hands of Captain Donald Campbell, a born leader who helped suppress Pontiac's War, which broke out soon after the Europeans made peace, and as the result of diseases, brought back from fighting French and Spanish forces in the tropics, that destroyed whole units; of more than 2,000 Highlanders who served in the Caribbean, Calloway writes, "only 245 remained fit for active duty in late August 1763." The unintended consequences of British victory were many. For one, Calloway observes, with the removal of the French threat on the frontier, American colonists spilled over the mountains to claim the fertile lands of Ohio and Kentucky, which, of course, were already occupied. Much bloodshed ensued as Indians fought settlers, who had come to believe that the British forces were actually protecting their enemies. Though weakened, the British formed a standing army of 10,000 troops in North America, which the colonists saw as a police force arrayed against them-a perception that helped touch off revolution a decade later. Callowayconcludes: "Peace brought little peace and much turmoil to North America."A welcome contribution to the history of America before the War of Independence, joining such fine recent books as Fred Anderson's The War That Made America (2005).
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195300710
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 3/31/2006
  • Series: Pivotal Moments in American History Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,113,813
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Colin G. Calloway is Professor of History and Samson Occom Professor of Native American Studies at Dartmouth College. His many books on early American history include New Worlds for All: Indians, Europeans, and the Remaking of Early America and The American Revolution in Indian Country. His most recent work, One Vast Winter Count: The Native American West Before Lewis and Clark (2003), received the Ray Allen Billington Prize, the Merle Curti Award, and many other prizes and was named one of Publishers Weekly's Best Books of the Year.

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Table of Contents

Introduction : war, peace, and revolution 3
1 America and Americans in 1763 19
2 Contested lands 47
3 The first war of independence 66
4 Setting boundaries 92
5 Endings and endurance in French America 112
6 Louisiana transfer and Mississippi frontier 133
7 Exiles and expulsions 150
Epilogue : a tale of two treaties 165
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2006

    Magnificent Narration of Critical History

    As with all books in the 'Pivotal Moments in American History' series, this book is exceedingly well written. David Hackett Fischer [Washington's Crossing] has superbly edited this work and his 3 page editor's note is itself, worth the price of the book. Dartmouth Professor of History, Colin Calloway has closely examined 1763, one of the most critical years in American History in his book, THE SCRATCH OF A PEN: 1763 AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF NORTH AMERICA. This one is sure to take its place on the 'essential reading' list of American history lovers. The book derives its name from historian Francis Parkman, who wrote regarding the 1763 Treaty of Paris at the conclusion of the Seven Years War, 'half a continent changed hands at the scratch of a pen'. What is commonly referred to in America as the French and Indian War was in actuality, the first World War. It was fought on 4 continents and 3 oceans around the globe. Its' participants included not only the British and French, but Americans, Canadians, American Indians, Prussians, Austrians, Russians, Spaniards and East Indians as well. Nearly a decade of war left both Britain and France in economic ruin. Britain, being victorious, tried to extricate itself from financial crisis by attempting to simultaneously cut costs (reducing gifts the Indians had grown so accustomed to receiving from the French) and increasing its revenue by raising taxes (on the colonials), which NEVER works. Cutting costs led in part to sparking an Indian war, and raising taxes led to an all out revolt by the colonies. Ultimately, Britain would be unable to benefit from its' newly won empire. Calloway shows in explicit detail how the 1763 Peace of Paris Treaty had a much more tumultuous effect upon the peoples of North America than the war itself. Britain tried to divide its newfound empire into two pieces, one for its colonists and one for the Indian tribes. The colonists, however, had a much different view. They saw their hard fought victory in the war as giving them the right to expand into the newly conquered territory, to itself relieve some its financial burden through land speculation and settlement. In an attempt to quell the growing anarchy in the new territory, Britain engaged in perhaps one of the first instances of bio-terrorism by purposely infecting Indians with small pox. Though successful in 'thinning the herd' so to speak, British lack of government intervention and control in the territory spurred anarchy among both the Indians and the settlers. Calloway has brilliantly defined both the short and long-term effects the Peace of Paris had on every venue of North America, from Hudson Bay to Florida and Cuba, and Nova Scotia to the Louisiana Territory. For a much better understanding of American history and the causes that pushed the colonies towards independence, this is essential reading. Professor Calloway holds the reader in his grasp with every page. The text flows nicely and is capped off with an exhaustive bibliography that will surely add to one's reading list. For as much as I truly loved this book, I do have one complaint. On page 117, this historian with a magnificent proficiency in writing, pierced my soul when he failed to contain himself from interpolating his own political essence upon current events, with just one brief sentence. I won't give too much away, as I don't want to dissuade anyone from reading this extraordinary work. But if Professor Calloway should ever happen to read this review, I say to you sir, you are a brilliant writer. Your work here is superb. Please don't blemish such a brilliant work with your own leanings. As you know, the purpose of the historian is to record and report the facts, not to color them. There, now that I have that off my chest, let me conclude by saying, I absolutely loved this book. It has given critical insight to not only the causes behind the revolution, but how the Peace of Paris Treaty of 1763

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2014

    This is the first time I have read anything by Colin Calloway. T

    This is the first time I have read anything by Colin Calloway. The French and Indian War period is my current area of interest.
    Colin has reinforced  what I have read. He also provides some new details and explores areas that I was unfamiliar with. I
    would recommend this book as an essential reference tool to the period.

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