Wolfgang Reinhard on the World War of 1684-1763

Wolfgang Reinhard’s massive new tome, Die Unterferfung der Welt (The Subjugation of the World, 2016) presents a comprehensive and sobering account of the systematic plunder of the world by European expansion from the 15th century and into the present. The interpretive survey of the problems of the modern world system have brought comprehensive attempts from numerous scholars, notably among these were Immanuel Wallerstein and his Modern World System, Vols. 1-4;  and more specific areas of comparison including Barrington Moore, Peter Manning and many others.  The overwhelming emphasis however has been on political-economic integration into the world system by direct force, colonialism and capitalism.  Most see this as expansion as an external force imposed by European expansion, but many who study the non-West realize that participation in the modern world system and modern capitalism was not a monopoly of the West as many ruling elites in the non-West chose a capitalist path to enrich themselves.

The general system of European expansion was that of plunder, invasion and destruction of indigenous systems of autonomy both economically and politically.  The rise of the European empires resulted in nearly constant violence and warfare from about 1500 through the 20th century.  Wolfgang Reinhard proposes that the period from 1684 to 1763 was another type of world war waged mostly between Britain and France both in Europe and in their Atlantic and Indian Ocean empires and outposts (Reinhard 2016, 545-49).   The constant warfare both on the continent and in the Americas as well as in the Indian Ocean constituted another form of world warfare. These included the period of what Reinhard attributes as the Thirty Years War in the French American colonies from 1684-1713, the War of Succession in Austria 1740-48; and finally the Seven Years War 1754-1763 in which the young George Washington gained his experience.

Reinhard’s chronology mostly conforms to the periodization offered by Immanuel Wallerstein, who describes the period 1689-1763 as the end of Dutch ascendant power and the rise of English unchallenged power (Wallerstein 2011); or one that marks a new economic transformation in which the British plantation system in the Caribbean and elsewhere supported the rise of the English Industrial Revolution (Sheridan 1969). The results of this long period of warfare effectively ended and forced the removal of the Dutch and French from the Indian Ocean, leaving the British with a European monopoly of the Western half of the Indian Ocean.  It also contained, reduced and severely limited French presence in North America to Quebec.  The effect on indigenous populations was a division of their tribal populations who in North America were left considerably weaker.



Reinhard, Wolfgang. Die Unterferfung der Welt: Globalgeschichte der Europäischen Expansion 1415-2015 (The Subjugation of the World: A World History of the European Expansion 1415-2015). Munich: C.H. Beck, 2016.

Sheridan, Richard. “The Plantation Revolution and the Industrial Revolution, 1625-1775.” Caribbean StudiesIX, no. 3 (October 1969): 5-25.

Wallerstein, Immanuel. The Modern World-System II : Mercantilism and the Consolidation of the European World-Economy, 1600–1750. Berkeley, U.S.: University of California Press, 2011.


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