A Struggle for Empire: Resistance and Reform in the British Atlantic World, 1760-1778
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CitationPellizzari, Peter. 2020. A Struggle for Empire: Resistance and Reform in the British Atlantic World, 1760-1778. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThe American Revolution not only marked the end of Britain’s control over thirteen rebellious colonies, but also the beginning of a division among subsequent historians that has long shaped our understanding of British America. Some historians have emphasized a continental approach and believe research should look west, toward the people that inhabited places outside the traditional “thirteen colonies” that would become the United States, such as the Gulf Coast or the Great Lakes region. In contrast, historians of the early Caribbean and the early modern British Empire have endorsed an Atlantic perspective that underlines the necessity of looking east, toward an imperial world governed by London officials and made up of Caribbean colonies worked by enslaved Africans. To date, however, little work has combined Britain’s North American and West Indian colonies into the same analytical frame to examine the Revolution along a north-south axis. This dissertation examines the interconnected worlds of Massachusetts, Jamaica, and London during the long decade between the Seven Years’ War (1756-63) and the outbreak of the American War of Independence (1775-78). Through a close reading of newspapers, personal letters, pamphlets, shipping lists, merchant business papers, official imperial correspondence, Parliamentary records, and slave testimonies, this dissertation uncovers the intertwined lives of merchants, planters, enslaved Africans, and imperial officials within the British Empire. I argue that the years before the Revolution are best understood as a unique interwar period within British imperial history, one that produced a great struggle for empire. This struggle was simultaneously a contest over imperial policy and the terms of Britishness, as well as a new, transformative phase in a multi-generational fight for freedom by the enslaved. Ultimately, my dissertation reveals the contested nature of politics and policymaking within geographically and demographically diverse empires, as well as the limits of colonial and enslaved resistance to imperial authority.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37365752
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