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Creating the British Atlantic

Creating the British Atlantic: Essays on Transplantation, Adaptation, and Continuity

Jack P. Greene
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 480
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    Creating the British Atlantic
    Book Description:

    Set mostly within an expansive British imperial and transatlantic framework, this new selection of writings from the renowned historian Jack P. Greene draws on themes he has been developing throughout his distinguished career. In these essays Greene explores the efforts to impose Old World institutions, identities, and values upon the New World societies being created during the colonization process. He shows how transplanted Old World components-political, legal, and social-were adapted to meet the demands of new, economically viable, expansive cultural hearths. Greene argues that these transplantations and adaptations were of fundamental importance in the formation and evolution of the new American republic and the society it represented.

    The scope of this work allows Greene to consider in depth numerous subjects, including the dynamics of colonization, the development and character of provincial identities, the relationship between new settler societies in America and the emerging British Empire, and the role of cultural power in social and political formation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3389-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  4. PART ONE Perspectives

    • ONE Hemispheric History and Atlantic History
      (pp. 3-18)

      Historians of the early modern Americas have always been open to the broader approach. Already by the closing decades of the nineteenth century, they had recognized and sought to subvert the tendency of emerging national histories to reduce the colonial past to little more than the prehistory of the independent nations that formed in the Americas after the mid-1770s. By insisting that colonial histories be contextualized, both as parts of the empires to which they belonged and as subsets of the greater process of European expansion, they called attention to the larger worlds in which early modern colonies took shape...

    • TWO Reformulating Englishness: Cultural Adaptation and Provinciality in the Construction of Corporate Identity in Colonial British America
      (pp. 19-32)

      Few developments have had a greater impact on the social organization of the globe than the movement of peoples outward from Europe beginning during the early modern era. At first moving west and south into the Americas and south and east into Africa and Asia, this expansion inaugurated a movement of peoples and cultures that during the nineteenth century extended through Siberia, Australia, Oceania, and Africa. Moving as explorers, traders, mariners, soldiers, prospectors, missionaries, and settlers, these Europeans never represented more than a small fraction of the population of any European cultural area, even those areas—Iberia and the British...

    • THREE State Formation, Resistance, and the Creation of Revolutionary Traditions in the Early Modern Era
      (pp. 33-63)

      The 1997 sears symposium, “Transatlantic Revolutionary Traditions 1688–1824,” at Purdue University seems to have been a response to two historiographical trends, an older and by now quite venerable, not to say antique, interest in revolutionary ideology and the newer and more trendy interest in the transatlantic context of historical developments around the Atlantic rim. Particularly evident in the English-speaking world and stimulated by the pioneering works of Bernard Bailyn, Gordon S. Wood, J. G. A. Pocock, and many other students of the history of early modern and Enlightenment political thought, the interest in revolutionary ideology has, over the past...

    • FOUR Colonial History and National History: Reflections on a Continuing Problem
      (pp. 64-80)

      For more than a century, the relationship between colonial history and national history has been a problematic one for professional historians of both eras. Since at least the 1890s, colonial historians have been acutely aware that the old-fashioned nineteenth-century conception of American history as the history of the United States and its antecedents is thoroughly anachronistic and insufficiently attentive to the larger contexts in which developments in America took place. Over the past generation, the thrust of historical studies has significantly enhanced this awareness. As Michael Warner has noted, a preoccupation “with the localism of early modern colonists, on the...

  5. PART TWO Governance

    • FIVE Transatlantic Colonization and the Redefinition of Empire in the Early Modern Era: The British-American Experience
      (pp. 83-100)

      For more than a century past,” Adam Smith remarked in 1776 in the conclusion toAn Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, the “rulers of Great Britain have … amused the people with the imagination that they possessed a great empire on the west side of the Atlantic. This empire, however, has hitherto,” Smith lamented, “existed in imagination only. It has hitherto been but the project of an empire; not a gold mine, but the project of a gold mine.” By this passage, Smith was not suggesting that the colonies that composed the British Empire...

    • SIX Traditions of Consensual Governance in the Construction of State Authority in the Early Modern European Empires in America
      (pp. 101-112)

      In every thing except their foreign trade,” observed Adam Smith in 1776, dilating upon the causes of the rapid development of new colonial societies in theWealth of Nations, “the liberty of the English colonists is complete. It is in every respect equal to that of their fellow-citizens at home, and is secured in the same manner, by an assembly of the representatives of the people.” “The government of the English colonies,” he observed, “is perhaps the only one which, since the world began, could give perfect security to the inhabitants of so very distant a province.”¹ In these passages,...

    • SEVEN Britain’s Overseas Empire before 1780: Overwhelmingly Successful and Bureaucratically Challenged
      (pp. 113-139)

      As a result of the American War for Independence, the British overseas empire in 1783 lost just under half of the thirty-three Atlantic colonies it had held when war began in 1775. In addition to the thirteen that became the United States, East and West Florida were retroceded to Spain, and the French did not return Tobago, which they had captured during the war. Over the next half century, the focus of empire shifted heavily to India, which until the 1760s had been a lucrative commercial venture presided over by a publicly chartered but privately controlled company with no significant...

    • EIGHT “Of Liberty and of the Colonies”: A Case Study of Constitutional Conflict in the Mid-Eighteenth-Century British American Empire
      (pp. 140-207)

      The early modern English/British Empire in America was a negotiated empire. From the beginning, the weakness of coercive resources in the colonies forced London officials to build metropolitan authority upon settler-created structures of power. To an important extent, therefore, metropolitan colonial authority had always coexisted with extensive local autonomy on the part of provincial governments dominated by colonial settlers.¹ Increasingly aware of the growing economic and strategic importance of the American colonies, some officials at Whitehall began in the late 1740s and early 1750s to take a deeper and more sustained interest in their affairs and governance. More than at...

    • NINE 1759: The Perils of Success
      (pp. 208-225)

      The fits of patriotic ecstasy that reverberated throughout the British Empire following the British conquest of Quebec in 1759, and again after the favorable—for the British—conclusion of the Seven Years’ War in 1763, disguised from the celebrants the many underlying problems and residual tensions that would over the next few decades reduce the size and scope of the empire, radically change its character, and reconfigure global power in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Such an outcome seemed unlikely at the time, for added to the empire’s extraordinary economic successes through the first six decades of the eighteenth century,...

    • TEN An Empire of Freemen? The British Debate over the Status of Overseas Representative Assemblies, 1763–1783
      (pp. 226-250)

      Many eighteenth-century Britons celebrated the representative institutions that settlers had devised in the early colonies and that had subsequently become a standard feature of British colonial governance as the central element that allegedly distinguished Britain’sfreeoverseas empire from those that other nations established. In America, proudly declared the agricultural writer Arthur Young in 1772, “Spain, Portugal and France have planted despotisms; only Britain liberty.”¹ “The Case of a Free country branching itself out in the manner Britain has done and sending to a distant world colonies which have there, from small beginnings and under free legislatures of their own,...

  6. PART THREE Identities

    • ELEVEN Empire and Identity from the Elizabethan Era to the American Revolution
      (pp. 253-277)

      How the development of a vast transoceanic empire during the early modern era affected the collective identity of the British people who dominated and defined that identity is the subject of this chapter. The earliest stages of English overseas expansion occurred during the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras, the very period when English opinion leaders were elaborating an identity for the emerging English nation.¹ While Protestantism, social openness, intellectual and scientific achievement, and a prosperity based upon trade were all important components of that identity, liberty, under an English system of law and government, composed its principal foundation, and while, between...

    • TWELVE “By Their Laws Shall Ye Know Them”: Law and Identity in Colonial British America
      (pp. 278-292)

      For the past quarter century, an expanding cadre of early American legal historians, abandoning the internalist approach of earlier legal historians for the sociolegal approach pioneered, for Americannationallegal history, by J. Willard Hurst in the 1950s, has been producing a rich and sophisticated body of work on many aspects of colonial British American legal cultures.¹ That the significance of this work has not been sufficiently appreciated—that scholars of nineteenth- and twentieth-century American law have largely dismissed it as irrelevant to national legal history, and that early American historians have underestimated its importance to the understanding of colonial...

    • THIRTEEN Liberty, Slavery, and the Transformation of British Identity in the Eighteenth-Century West Indies
      (pp. 293-322)

      The earliest stages of English overseas expansion occurred during the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods, the very era when English opinion leaders were elaborating an identity for the emerging English nation.¹ Protestantism, social openness, intellectual and scientific achievement, and prosperity and trade were all important components of that identity, but liberty, as fostered and defined by the unique English system of law and government, had long been and continued to be its principal foundation. As early as the late fifteenth century, contemporary English and many foreign observers agreed that the English people’s distinctive system of law and liberty was what principally...

    • FOURTEEN Alterity and the Production of Identity in the Early Modern British American Empire and the Early United States
      (pp. 323-339)

      During a house of commons debate in November 1775 over what, in light of its army’s misadventures in Massachusetts the previous spring, Britain should do to deal with colonial resistance to parliamentary authority, William Innes, member of Parliament for Ilchester, spoke at length in favor of strong coercive measures. Emphatically questioning whether the colonists were even “the off spring of Englishmen, and as such entitled to the privileges of Britons,” he denounced them as a promiscuous “mixture of people” who consisted “not only … of English, Scots, and Irish, but also of French, Dutch, Germans innumerable, Indians, Africans, and a...

    • FIFTEEN State Identities and National Identity in the Era of the American Revolution
      (pp. 340-360)

      How a nation forged out of a composite of old polities develops a national identity and sense of loyalty among its citizens is an intricate and fascinating problem that deserves more attention than it has so far had in the new literature on the history of early modern and modern state formation. This problem is perhaps even more intriguing when, as in the case of the United States, the new national state is an unintended consequence of an unplanned political movement. Obviously, there could have been no specificallyAmericannationalism based upon loyalty to an American national polity before there...

  7. PART FOUR Social Construction

    • SIXTEEN Social and Cultural Capital in Colonization and State Building in the Early Modern Era: Colonial British America as a Case Study
      (pp. 363-380)

      Social capitalis a relatively new concept which political scientists and sociologists have developed to distinguish certain kinds of social resources from other kinds, namely financial or investment capital, physical capital in the form of fixed or moveable material resources, and human capital in the form of individual knowledge and technical skills. As employed by modern social scientists such as Robert Putnam, social capital consists of the organizations and connections within societies which foster cooperation, trust, participation, the exchange of information, civil interaction, and coordinated activity in pursuit of social goals.¹ An expression of the traditional social science concern with...

    • SEVENTEEN Pluribus or Unum? White Ethnicity in the Formation of Colonial American Culture
      (pp. 381-400)

      The area that in 1776 became the United States was peopled by descendants of a combination of three groups: (1) the original aboriginal population who had long occupied the area when Europeans initiated a sustained encounter between the Old World and the New at the end of the fifteenth century, (2) many Europeans who had poured into colonial English or, after 1707, British North America beginning in the early seventeenth century, and (3) African slaves forcefully brought to the New World to provide labor for the new economic enterprises established in America under the aegis and control of Europeans. Of...

    • EIGHTEEN The Cultural Dimensions of Political Transfers: An Aspect of the European Occupation of the Americas
      (pp. 401-425)

      Few developments have had a greater influence on the social organization of the globe than the movement of peoples outward from Europe beginning during the early modern era. In the early modern Americas, this development was manifest in the establishment of a large number of settler and trading societies, each of them associated—and occasionally even sponsored by—a European state. We have long known that the charter—or founding—groups in these societies brought more than their bodies with them to the New World, endeavoring to incorporate relevant aspects of the culture they had left behind into the political...

    • NINETEEN Early Modern Southeastern North America and the Broader Atlantic and American Worlds
      (pp. 426-438)

      Historians of neither the indigenous inhabitants of the mainland of southeastern North America nor the colonies Europeans established there after 1560 have ever been comfortable working within the framework of the history of the South. The very idea of the South as a distinctive entity characterized by slavery, large numbers of people of African descent, large plantations producing staple crops for export, low investment in education and other social amenities, and deep religiosity makes sense only in the American national context that took shape during the fifty years following the American Revolution and the subsequent creation of a new federal...

  8. Index
    (pp. 439-465)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 466-466)