British Empire

In this engrossing narrative of the great military conflagration of the mid-eighteenth century, Fred Anderson transports us into the maelstrom of international rivalries. With the Seven Years' War, Great Britain decisively eliminated French power north of the Caribbean — and in the process destroyed an American diplomatic system in which Native Americans had long played a central, balancing role — permanently changing the political and cultural landscape of North America.

Anderson skillfully reveals the clash of inherited perceptions the war created when it gave thousands of American colonists their first experience of real Englishmen and introduced them to the British cultural and class system. We see colonists who assumed that they were partners in the empire encountering British officers who regarded them as subordinates and who treated them accordingly. This laid the groundwork in shared experience for a common view of the world, of the empire, and of the men who had once been their masters. Thus, Anderson shows, the war taught George Washington and other provincials profound emotional lessons, as well as giving them practical instruction in how to be soldiers.

Depicting the subsequent British efforts to reform the empire and American resistance — the riots of the Stamp Act crisis and the nearly simultaneous pan-Indian insurrection called Pontiac's Rebellion — as postwar developments rather than as an anticipation of the national independence that no one knew lay ahead (or even desired), Anderson re-creates the perspectives through which contemporaries saw events unfold while they tried to preserve imperial relationships.

Interweaving stories of kings and imperial officers with those of Indians, traders, and the diverse colonial peoples, Anderson brings alive a chapter of our history that was shaped as much by individual choices and actions as by social, economic, and political forces.
Shedding new light on British expansion in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, this collection of essays examines how the first British Empire was received and shaped by its subject peoples in Scotland, Ireland, North America, and the Caribbean.

An introduction surveys British imperial historiography and provides a context for the volume as a whole. The essays focus on specific ethnic groups -- Native Americans, African-Americans, Scotch-Irish, and Dutch and Germans -- and their relations with the British, as well as on the effects of British expansion in particular regions -- Ireland, Scotland, Canada, and the West Indies. A conclusion assesses the impact of the North American colonies on British society and politics.

Taken together, these essays represent a new kind of imperial history -- one that portrays imperial expansion as a dynamic process in which the oulying areas, not only the English center, played an important role in the development and character of the Empire. The collection interpets imperial history broadly, examining it from the perspective of common folk as well as elites and discussing the clash of cultures in addition to political disputes. Finally, by examining shifting and multiple frontiers and by drawing parallels between outlying provinces, these essays move us closer to a truly integrated story that links the diverse ethnic experiences of the first British Empire.

The contributors are Bernard Bailyn, Philip D. Morgan, Nicholas Canny, Eric Richards, James H. Merrell, A. G. Roeber, Maldwyn A. Jones, Michael Craton, J. M. Bumsted, and Jacob M. Price.

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