War of the Austrian Succession

War of the Austrian Succession, 1739-48, actually 2 wars, one fought in Europe, the other, also known as King George's War, fought in the colonies. Between 1713 and 1739 French overseas trade had increased astronomically, while that of Britain stagnated. Particularly at issue was trade with the Spanish Empire, which France dominated. Britain, determined to oust the French from this vast market, declared war on Spain (the so-called War of Jenkins's Ear) on 19 Oct 1739. War with France would quickly have followed but for the outbreak of hostilities between the continental powers in Europe upon the accession in Oct 1740 of Maria Theresa to the Imperial Habsburg (Austrian) throne.

Britain and France were drawn into this conflict on opposing sides. It proved a disaster for both. A British army was soundly defeated 11 May 1745 at Fontenoy, Flanders (now in Belgium), by the French and driven off the continent. Overseas, French maritime trade was eventually ruined by the Royal Navy, and Canadian war parties ravaged British frontier settlements in NS, NY and New England. A combined British-New England expedition captured Louisbourg in June, but the Anglo-American force was no more able to conquer Canada than the Canadians were able to conquer New England. In May-June 1748 the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle ended the war but settled nothing. Britain exchanged Louisbourg for Madras, India, which then went to France. The Netherlands were ceded to Austria, and Silesia to Prussia. The powers were all dissatisfied with their respective allies, and so made changes: on the eve of the Seven Years' War Prussia was allied with Britain, Austria with France.