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'Judgement and Experience'? British politics, Atlantic connexions and the American Revolution

Struan, Andrew David (2010) 'Judgement and Experience'? British politics, Atlantic connexions and the American Revolution. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

In one of his publications, the politician and merchant Anthony Bacon asked if ‘some honest Persons, of plain Understanding, and of tolerable Judgement and Experience, could be engaged, at the Government’s Expence, to make the general Tour of North America’. This person, he thought, would be able to forge a connexion between the metropolitan centre and the far-flung reaches of America and improve the relationship between mother country and colony by increasing the level of understanding of the other on both sides of the Atlantic. Bacon appreciated that this lack of knowledge of their American brethren meant that British politics and politicians were often working with limited, or biased, information when formulating imperial policy. This thesis analyses the ways six MPs with significant American connexions operated throughout the imperial crises of the 1760s and 1770s. It establishes that these men operated at the highest levels of British politics at this time and sought to create themselves as the predominant experts on the American colonies. In the debates on the nature of the British Empire throughout the 1760s and 1770s, these men were at the forefront of the political mind and, at least until the hardening of opinions in the 1770s, had an impact on the way in which the colonies were governed. More than that, however, this work has shown that – contrary to much earlier belief – the House of Commons in the later eighteenth century was not working in ignorance of the situation in the Americas: rather, there were a small but significant number of men with real and personal connexions to, and knowledge about, the colonies. As the imperial grounds shifted through the 1770s, however, even the most well-versed of these ‘American MPs’ began to appear to have suffered some disconnection from the colonial viewpoint. This thesis takes into account the Atlantic and imperial networks under which these MPs worked and formed their political theories and opinions. In addition, it seeks in some way to bring the politics of the American Revolution into the fold of Atlantic History and to assess the ways in which those with the greatest experience of working in the peripheries of empire sought to reshape and reorganise its structure from the metropole after the close of the Seven Years War.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: British politics, Atlantic community, American Revolution, War for Independence, coercive acts, intolerable acts, stamp act, Anglo-American, British Empire, imperial
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
E History America > E11 America (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Humanities > History
Supervisor's Name: Newman, Prof. Simon and Glassey, Dr. Lionel
Date of Award: 2010
Depositing User: Dr Andrew David Struan
Unique ID: glathesis:2010-1845
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 02 Jun 2010
Last Modified: 16 Apr 2014 15:20
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/1845

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