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Using the British Empire as a case study, this succinct study argues that the establishment of overseas settlements in America created a problem of constitutional organization. The failure to resolve the resulting tensions led to the thirteen continental colonies seceding from the empire in 1776. Challenging those historians who have assumed that the British had the law on their side during the debates that led to the American Revolution, this volume argues that the empire had long exhibited a high degree of constitutional multiplicity, with each colony having its own discrete constitution. Contending that these constitutions cannot be conflated with the metropolitan British constitution, it argues that British refusal to accept the legitimacy of colonial understandings of the sanctity of the many colonial constitutions and the imperial constitution was the critical element leading to the American Revolution.
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.
This volume comprehensively examines how metropolitan Britons spoke and wrote about the British Empire during the short eighteenth century, from about 1730 to 1790. The work argues that following several decades of largely uncritical celebration of the empire as a vibrant commercial entity that had made Britain prosperous and powerful, a growing familiarity with the character of overseas territories and their inhabitants during and after the Seven Years' War produced a substantial critique of empire. This critique evolved out of a widespread revulsion against the behaviours exhibited by Britons overseas and built on a language of 'otherness' that metropolitans had used since the beginning of overseas expansion to describe its participants, the societies and polities that Britons abroad constructed in their new habitats. It used the languages of humanity and justice as standards to evaluate and condemn the behaviours of both overseas Britons and subaltern people in the British Empire, whether in India, the Americas, Africa or Ireland.
Consisting of an introduction and ten chapters, Exclusionary Empire examines the transfer of English traditions of liberty and the rule of law overseas from 1600 to 1900. Each chapter is written by a noted specialist and focuses on a particular area of the settler empire - Colonial North America, the West Indies, Ireland, the early United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa - and on one non-settler colony, India. The book examines the ways in which the polities in each of these areas incorporated these traditions, paying particular attention to the extent to which these traditions were confined to the independent white male segments of society and denied to most others. This collection will be invaluable to all those interested in the history of colonialism, European expansion, the development of empire, the role of cultural inheritance in those histories, and the confinement of access to that inheritance to people of European descent.
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