The Second Hundred Years’ War
It’s likely most people have heard of the “Hundred Years’ War,” the protracted effort by England to conquer France in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries (1337-1453). Well some historians discern a “Second Hundred Years’ War” between the two countries, fought between 1665 and 1815, which was essentially a English effort to prevent France from dominating Europe.
Of course, like the genuine original “Hundred Years’ War,” this version was not continuous. Although the two powers were at war – whether hot or cold – for much of the time, there were often protracted periods of peace.
Sorting out the seemingly numerous conflicts that comprise this generational struggle is sometimes difficult due to the fact that some of the wars have multiple names, or began as a conflict between one of the great powers and a third party, or even as a war among minor powers that somehow drew in the two rivals.
The Wars of the “Second Hundred Years’ War”
|The Second Anglo-Dutch War ||1665-1667*|
|War of the Grand Alliance, The Nine Years’ War, The War of the English Succession, King William’s War +, War of the League of Augsburg, War of the Palatine Succession||1688-1697**|
|War of the Spanish Succession, Queen Anne’s War+ ||1701-1714|
|War of the Austrian Succession, King George’s War+ ||1740-1748|
|The Seven Years’ War, the French & Indian War+ ||1756-1763***|
|War of the American Revolution ||1778-1783|
|War of the French Revolution ||1793-1802|
|Napoleonic War ||1803-1815 |
|+ Name in Britain’s American colonies.|
* France entered in 1666.
** Includes the Williamite War or War of the Two Kings in Ireland
*** Began in America in 1754.
Surprisingly, the two countries were actually on the same side during the first two years of the Dutch War of 1672-1678 (known in England as the Third Anglo-Dutch War) and the War of the Quadruple Alliance, 1718-1720, when England and France joined together to defeat Spain.
At times these wars “absorbed” other conflicts, which did not initially involve Britain and France against each other, such as the Anglo-Spanish “War of Jenkins’ Ear,” which began in 1739 and was subsumed into the War of the Austrian Succession. In addition, there were often complex anomalies. During the Napeolonic War, Russia and Turkey engaged in their fifth or sixth war together, running from 1806 to 1812. For the first part of this war (1806-1807), Russia was allied with Britain against France, but the British supported the Turks. Then, from 1807 to 1812, Russia was allied to France, and continued its war with the Turks, whom the British continued to support.
In addition, the two powers often engaged in what we would today call “proxy wars” in India, Africa, or the Americas when not officially at war with each other. For example, in 1752-1754, Britain’s American colonies were more or less at war with French Canada, which led to the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War, or in 1775-1778, during the first 30 months of the American Revolution, when the French covertly supported the Patriot’s cause against Britain, before jumping in themselves early in 1778. And then there was the occasional “third party” war, such as the American “Quasi-War with France” (1798-1800), or the Anglo-American War of 1812 (1812-1814), in each of which the U.S. was not allied to the enemy of its enemy-of-the-moment.
Further complicating matters is the fact that while Britain was pretty much continuously at war with France from 1793 to 1815 (with two brief interruptions), this semi-continuous conflict is often broken up into seven distinct “wars” – the War of the First Coalition, the War of the Second Coalition, etc., etc., about which more another time.
Although today hardly remembered, Dionysios of Syracuse (c. 432–367 B.C.) was one of the wonders of his age, and among the truly great rulers in all history. Of humble origins, we first hear of him in connection with the Carthaginian-Sicilian War of 409-405 B.C. At first the Carthaginians did very well, subduing several cities. Dionysios, a clerk in a government office, doing his stint of military service, soon caught the attention of senior officers. An effective commander, with a little help from the plague, he stopped the Carthaginian advance by 405 B.C. Over the next couple of years he took supreme power, and went on to rule Syracuse, and an increasingly larger empire that ultimately sprawled over half of Sicily plus most of southern Italy. In the process, he created history’s first “Skunk Works,” an arsenal and laboratory that designed innovative weapons, such as the catapult.
In 379 B.C., seeking to round out his holdings in southern Italy, Dionysios decided to attack Thurii, a Greek city about 150 miles southeast of Naples, on the instep of the Italian boot. Although today it survives only as the tiny hamlet of Thurio, back then Thurii was major city, celebrated for its wealth and the justice of its laws. Founded around 460 B.C., it numbered among its first settlers Herodotos, the “Father of History,” Lysias, one of the most noted orators of ancient times, and many other distinguished people of the age.
Faced with the might of Dionysios, the people of Thurii despaired, for his resources were far more numerous than their own. His fleet alone numbered some 300 warships, and he had an equally impressive army, which included many mercenaries, far more skilled than the city’s citizen-militia. So the Thuriians awaited their fate, ensconced in behind their walls while offering prayers to the gods for salvation.
To their amazement, their prayers were answered.
As Dionysios’ fleet sailed into the Gulf of Taranto, the winds shifted. A strong north wind buffeted the fleet, damaging and sinking many of the ships, with great loss of life. Unable to continue, Dionysios was forced to abandon his attempt to take the city.
The Thuriians, grateful for their salvation by the “divine wind,” as it were, decided it would be appropriate to thank Boreas, the God of Winds, for his favor to them. They offered sacrifices and instituted an annual festival in his honor. But that wasn’t enough, so they also declared him a citizen and gave him a house to live in whenever he chanced to be in the neighborhood.