In the dictionary, the words ‘global war’ and ‘world war’ have similar but different definitions. A ‘world war’ is a “war involving many large nations in different parts of the world.” The same dictionary says a ‘global war’ “involves the major nations of the world.”
Why the comparison? Most Americans think of our battle for independence as an isolated conflict. It wasn’t.
In 1775, the major nations of Europe were France, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, the Holy Roman Emperor and Russia. Germany and Italy were a collection of duchies and small nation-states that wouldn’t be united until the 1870s. Seven German states loosely unified under the umbrella of the Holy Roman Empire provided troops and Swedish volunteers came to the colonies to fight against the British. Sweden was the first country that had not declared war to recognize the United States in 1783.
China and India were involved they were the source of most of the tea drunk in Europe and the Thirteen Colonies. Immediately after the French declared war on Britain, England attacked and seized a French colonial enclave in southeastern India. The Kingdom of Mysore joined the fight against the British. Japan was still isolated from the rest of the world and stood on the sideline.
The American Revolution set off land battles in South America (what we now call Dutch Guyana) and Central America (Guatemala). In the Caribbean, combat occurred on almost every island except Cuba and Jamaica. Fighting took place in Florida (a British possession at the time) and in Canada.
Can the American Revolution be classified as a ‘world war?’ Yes because the large nations of the time were involved in the conflict all over the world.
Was our revolution a ‘global war?’ Absolutely. The major powers of Europe, Asia and were involved. In North and South America, what are now countries were just colonies.
If the American Revolution meets the definition of global and world war, why isn’t it referred to as such? Only the historians can answer that, but one thing is certain. Our war for independence sowed the seeds for a major convulsion in Europe called the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars that kept Europe and the rest of the world embroiled in conflict until Napoleon was defeated in 1815 and exiled to St. Helena, an island in the middle of the South Atlantic.
U.S. citizens, Americans, if you will, tend to look at the American Revolution as a solitary event. It was not. It may have started outside Boston, but it became just one theater in a larger global or world (take your pick) war over which European power controlled what colonial possession.