To save content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about saving content to .
To save content items to your Kindle, first ensure firstname.lastname@example.org
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
Chapter 11 of Earthopolis: A Biography of Our Urban Planet explores cities’ role as creators and creations of the political revolutions of the late-eighteenth-century Atlantic world. It argues that traditions of urban “freedoms” going back to the revival of European cities, imperial conflict throughout the world between regimes based in London and Paris, restive settler colonial cities in the Americas, and the Atlantic economy’s reliance on enslavement made the Atlantic into the world’s first “cauldron” of modern revolution. It traces the close connections between the American Revolution that started in Boston and the French one in Paris, while investigating the ways revolutionaries used the spaces of a cities designed for colonial or authoritarian control to overthrow otherwise all-powerful-seeming regimes, replacing them with structures designed for democracy or People Power.
The Haitian Revolution (1789–1804) in Saint-Domingue (later Haiti) and the African Protestant movement in the early United States coincided to produce a collective of protest literature by Black authors against the unequal treatment and inhumane bondage of Black people. Black Atlantic revolutionary literature offers a countervailing narrative to a historiography of the Haitian Revolution based on analysis from contemporary literary works by white writers. This repertoire of Black literature presents the history of expanding political and social freedoms across the Atlantic world. Black writers constructed disparate revolutionary views of freedom. In Saint-Domingue, Toussaint Louverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines pursued different policies, and Julien Raimond advocated predominantly for enfranchisement of gens du couleur, free persons with African and European parentage. African American clergy Lemuel Haynes, Absalom Jones, and Richard Allen looked to Christian Republicanism to end slavery, while Freemason leader Prince Hall embraced revolutionary violence as legitimate to secure Black liberation. The geopolitical triumphs of the Haitian Revolution inspired transitions in Black Atlantic literature toward resistance writing throughout the nineteenth century. The revolutionary-era collective established a literary foundation upon which later Haitian and Black American authors published works heralding the birth of an independent Black republic in the Caribbean.
This chapter explores how transatlantic Black authors responded to transitional British national identity in the decades surrounding the American Revolution. It examines some of the conflicting discursive and cultural elements of African, American, and British identities as each of these emerged in new forms during the mid- to late eighteenth century. Examining evangelical and political work by Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, Phillis Wheatley and Ottobah Cugoano, it emphasizes sensitivity to the prevalence of “Britishness” in the construction of early “African American” narratives of identity and belonging. While the “middle passage” loomed large as the most traumatic transatlantic migration in the eighteenth-century African American literary tradition, moving from west to east also generated considerable economic, social, and political anxieties and prompted a range of intellectual responses. As they would in the nineteenth century, many Black writers in America saw Britain as a beacon of liberty, Christian morality, and fairness. When they arrived, they often found that the reality did not match their expectations. This chapter therefore examines Black intellectual responses to, and constructions of, British national identity narratives during decades of significant transition.
Slavery, Christianity, the Enlightenment, and the American Revolution were primary forces that shaped African American literary production during the eighteenth century. Slavery was the force that brought most Africans and Europeans into intense personal contact and influenced Africans’ thinking about Western ideas and ideals. Christianity was the message that prompted several Africans to write, modified their beliefs, and highlighted the contrast between what Christians said and the way they often lived and treated enslaved and other Africans. This disjunction was a constant theme in the writings of Africans who acquired this skill in the eighteenth century. The Enlightenment fostered racialist and racist thought concerning Africans and encouraged some Europeans to test these ideas by educating Africans and some Africans to dispute these ideas through literary expression. The so-called Age of Revolution fueled secular and not just religious attacks on slavery and Western hypocrisy. It is not always possible to separate African literary expression in Europe and America or even Africa during the eighteenth century because the world at the time was more truly Atlantic than some may currently suppose.
This volume provides an illuminating exploration of the development of early African American literature from an African diasporic perspective—in Africa, England, and the Americas. It juxtaposes analyses of writings by familiar authors like Phillis Wheatley and Olaudah Equiano with those of lesser known or examined works by writers such as David Margrett and Isabel de Olvera to explore how issues including forced migration, enslavement, authorship, and racial identity influenced early Black literary production and how theoretical frameworks like Afrofuturism and intersectionality can enrich our understanding of texts produced in this period. Chapters grouped in four sections – Limits and Liberties of Early Black Print Culture, Black Writing and Revolution, Early African American Life in Literature, and Evolutions of Early Black Literature – examine how transitions coupled with conceptions of race, the impacts of revolution, and the effects of religion shaped the trajectory of authors' lives and the production of their literature.
This chapter explores the high hopes for Irish commerce that were aroused by the American Revolution, and their complex interactions with British attempts to reform and consolidate the remnants of its mercantile empire following its American debacle. Irish campaigns for ‘free trade’ and ‘legislative independence’ were animated by the hope that the liberation of the Kingdom’s foreign trade would enable it to chart its own course in a more peaceful Europe. This vision clashed fundamentally with a rival, British reform agenda, embodied in William Pitt the Younger’s unsuccessful Irish Commercial Propositions of 1785, which balanced an extension of imperial trading privileges to Ireland with its closer integration into the British market. The rejection of Pitt’s proposals by the Irish parliament, after their heavy modification by British slaving and manufacturing interests, produced an unstable equilibrium, dominated by patronage and executive power, that was ripe for criticism by the more radical forces that would take up the fallen mantle of Irish ‘patriotism’ in the 1790s.
Histories of Irish political thought in this period have adopted an overwhelmingly national focus. While they have frequently engaged with the transnational contexts, whether British, Atlantic or European, that have shaped traditions such as unionism, nationalism and republicanism, their ultimate purpose has been to better understand the principal actors in what remains an Irish story. 4 This focus on Irish national and confessional identities has tended to sideline other questions that we might usefully ask of texts produced in and around Ireland during this turbulent period. Where was Ireland located, by Irish and non-Irish contemporaries alike, within the broader political conjuncture of the later-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries? What can debates concerning Ireland can tell us about the evolution of British and European political thinking in the era of the American and French Revolutions, and of Britain’s rise to global commercial and colonial hegemony?
This chapter argues that in the Age of Atlantic Revolutions (c. 1770s–1790s) republican conceptions of liberty were put into service of both antislavery and proslavery discourses. Focusing on the American, Dutch, French, and Haitian revolutions, it distinguish three lines of republican reasoning that informed arguments against slavery: the 'extension' of political freedom to enslaved people; the idea that the institution of slavery leads to corruption; and third, the notion of republican liberty as a reward for military courage and sacrifice. It then identifies three ways in which republican conceptions of liberty were widely reconciled with the existence of chattel slavery: only a certain delineated group in society could responsibly enjoy republican liberty; enslaved people were a form of property and therefore not part of a society of free citizens; and finally, the idea that enslaved people who did not resist their slavery, basically acquiesced in their unfree status and were unworthy of republican liberty. Eighteenth-century republican arguments about liberty did not necessarily contradict chattel slavery, but could also form part of the legitimization of slavery. The chapter, then, demonstrates not so much the limits but the versatile employability of the republican discourse of liberty.
Historians have been slow to examine the political ramifications of the consumer revolution. Europe and the Americas experienced intense political strife in the eighteenth century, culminating in the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Haitian Revolution, and Latin American revolutions. Did the consumer revolution (lowercase “r”) have anything to do with these political Revolutions (uppercase “R”)? This chapter provides a framework for understanding how consumer goods became implicated in revolutionary movements. It argues that activists during the age of Revolution politicized consumer goods in three ways. First, by protesting against the “despotic” commercial regulations and consumption taxes at the heart of imperial political economies, activists politicized colonial goods, such as tea and tobacco. They demanded that such “necessities” circulate freely and at low cost. Second, citizens imbued everyday objects with revolutionary meaning. Material objects like the tricolor cockade mediated revolutionary ideas and aspirations, enabling citizens to participate in and express their allegiance to (or rejection of) evolving political projects. Finally, consumer activism shaped debates on slavery. The enslaved of Haiti launched the era’s greatest attack on slavery, overthrowing a brutal system of production that provided Europeans with large quantities of colonial products. Further, abolitionists in Europe and North America protested slavery by abstaining from slave-produced sugar. They argued that consumers had the power to effect large-scale change through a new mode of collective action: the boycott.
The late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries have long been seen as a foundational period for modern Irish political traditions such as nationalism, republicanism and unionism. The Case of Ireland offers a fresh account of Ireland's neglected role in European debates about commerce and empire in what was a global era of war and revolution. Drawing on a broad range of writings from merchants, agrarian improvers, philosophers, politicians and revolutionaries across Europe, this book shows how Ireland became a field of conflict and projection between rival visions of politics in commercial society, associated with the warring empires of Britain and France. It offers a new perspective on the crisis and transformation of the British Empire at the end of the eighteenth century, and restores Ireland to its rightful place at the centre of European intellectual history.
The production, acquisition, and use of consumer goods defines our daily lives, and yet consumerism is seen as increasingly controversial. Movements for sustainable and ethical consumerism are gaining momentum alongside an awareness of how our choices in the marketplace can affect public issues. How did we get here? This volume advances a bold new interpretation of the 'consumer revolution' of the eighteenth century, when European elites, middling classes, and even certain labourers purchased unprecedented quantities of clothing, household goods, and colonial products. Michael Kwass adopts a global perspective that incorporates the expansion of European empires, the development of world trade, and the rise of plantation slavery in the Americas. Kwass analyses the emergence of Enlightenment material cultures, contentious philosophical debates on the morality of consumption, and new forms of consumer activism to offer a fresh interpretation of the politics of consumption in the age of abolitionism and the Atlantic Revolutions.
The American Revolution, and the principles of liberty and equality which it was believed to have embodied, precipitated a wave of revolutions in France, Haiti, and Spanish America which occurred over the roughly fifty-year period between 1775 and 1825. In each of those revolutions, slaves pushed for freedom and equality, and they often rebelled, the clearest indication of their refusal to accept the inhumanity of chattel slavery. Enslavers feared slave insurrection, and they worked diligently to tighten control over slaves. Although large-scale rebellions became less likely to succeed during the Age of Revolutions, slaves throughout the Atlantic World continued to resist their oppressors. Slaves relied on an extensive communication network, and they were well aware of the revolutions and independence movements transpiring in the Atlantic World.
American examples led British reformers to mobilize as they never had before. Amid the John Wilkes controversies of the late 1760s, which became a flash point for concerns over the unrepresentativeness of the British Parliament, government corruption, and rights to free speech, liberal supporters organized the Society of Supporters of the Bill of Rights with a Virginian as its secretary. Seeking to affiliate reformers’ support across Britain and the empire, while endeavoring to also support Americans during the prerevolutionary controversies, the Supporters and their successor organizations provide structure to the reform movement, whereas previously politicians had sought to maintain their “independence“ and avoid formal organizations.
Whereas Americans had quickly won redress amid the Stamp Act controversy, over the following decade the use of similar, affiliated social movement organizations exacerbated rivalries with Britain and eventually mobilized the War of Independence. First, colonists responded to the hated Townshend Acts of 1767 with boycotting associations that sought to overturn the measure through economic warfare – that only led to partial changes. American rights became a partisan issue with Britain, as colonial patriots increasingly allied with the Wilkes and Liberty movement. The enduring tax on tea and the colonial resistance it inspired in 1774 motivated British passage of the Coercive Acts, that militarized the colonial networks and led them to prepare for war. Committees of Safety and Security seized power in many locales and proved integral in mobilizing the civil war against the British.
British newcomers to South Carolina saw no irreconcilable tension between English law and the ownership of slaves, and in Chapter Five I explore how administrative law in occupied Charlestown evolved to manage an increasingly mobile slave population. Rather than reforming colonial slave law, British administrators and military officers relied heavily upon colonial precedents as they balanced their need to maintain South Carolina’s plantation economy against their desire to employ the labor of slaves in British army departments. Individual British administrators also learned to buy, sell, and argue over slaves, adopting slavery’s legal language as they sought to supplement their incomes and build wealth. As they established their own plantations and confiscated the human property of people they called rebels, they, too, treated slaves as things on a daily basis, replicating local legal practices that did not appear from their perspective to be maladaptive. Consequently, the legal administration of occupied Charles Town tended to support rather than undermine slavery as an institution, despite growing antislavery sentiment in England.
In 1700 about 250,000 European colonists and enslaved Africans lived in North America, primarily along a thin strip of land bordering the Atlantic Ocean. By 1870 these scattered colonial settlements had been consolidated into two continental nations – the United States and Canada – with a combined population of more than 40 million. Although agriculture remained the leading employer in North America in 1870, the rapid growth of industry was transforming these nations into increasingly urban and industrial societies and contributing to the accelerating growth of living standards. This chapter locates the sources of this remarkable growth in the interactions of abundant natural resources, a responsive economic and political system, and sustained technological progress. Yet the story of these years is not solely one of economic success. From the perspective of the aboriginal peoples of North America, European settlement and expansion had tragic consequences. So, too, the experience of enslaved Africans and their descendants was one of remarkable hardships. Slavery proved a source of continuing political tensions that resulted in a destructive and costly civil war and left a legacy of racial segregation and tensions that are still palpable today.
In this chapter, I argue that the formation of intellectual property was enabled by a cultural transformation, involving the embrace of natural legality, a transformation that parallels, in significant respects, the Christianization of imperial Rome. In this cultural transformation, traditions of Roman law were rediscovered as a naturalistic foundation for sociability and national economic life. The commodification of human creativity and inventive discovery, through intellectual property rights, made sense, within the culture of natural legality, as a justified response to natural, but extraordinary, powers of human creativity, and became part of a broader strategy for national empowerment. The combination of Roman law with interpretations of Christian obligation that emphasized natural sociability and legality gave new form to a natural rights tradition, one that providing legitimating foundations for the recognition of intellectual property under principles of English common law. The chapter concludes with a focus on the U.S. constitutional convention of 1787, and the embrace of intellectual property as part of the constitutional framework for a powerful, national state.
This chapter describes and explains the emergence of majoritarian decision-making in twenty-seven lower colonial assemblies in Ireland, mainland North America, and the Caribbean between 1619 and 1776. It documents the peculiar conditions under which majoritarian politics developed in the colonies while also registering the importance of attempts to imitate parliamentary practices. Colonial lower assemblies were created under conditions fundamentally different from those that prevailed in the Westminster House of Commons. Some were part of corporations and proprietorships, not royal colonies; and some initially admitted all freemen, not simply elected representatives. These factors led to distinctive institutional trajectories. In general and over the long run, these factors appear to have reinforced a tendency for the colonial lower assemblies to be or become majoritarian. By scrutinizing the available evidence, one is left with the overwhelming impression of a total embrace of majoritarian politics before the American Revolution and, in most cases, long before that time. As the colonial lower assemblies of North America became provincial congresses and then state lower assemblies, they predictably continued their majoritarian practices. This pattern continued in the first intercolonial assemblies and in the US House of Representatives.
The Conclusion demonstrates the global-historical and interdisciplinary importance of early modern developments in the history of majority rule. It sketches the modern history of majoritarian decision-making in the elected assemblies of the United States, the United Kingdom, continental Europe, and the postcolonial polities that emerged from their empires and the tumult of the two world wars. It then explains the basic ways in which the history of the rise of the majority in early modern Britain and its empire recasts majority rule as a political problem in a way that has important implications for political science, political theory, and wider public debate. It shows that all of the basic maladies identified today in debates over the state of representative democracy were present, identified, and discussed in the seventeenth century. In particular, contemporaries experienced and described the threat that majority rule posed to the role of rational, informed argument and inclusion in national decision-making.
This article surveys previously underexamined American and British intelligence networks that operated in the Netherlands during the eighteenth century and demonstrates the relevance of the eighteenth-century Dutch Republic to the larger history of the Netherlands, early modern Europe, and the revolutionary Atlantic. The Dutch Republic's favourable geographic location, its postal services, its sophisticated press, and its mercantile economy made it an ideal place to extract information and build intelligence networks, shaping power politics in the eighteenth-century British Atlantic. Additionally, this article illustrates how these Anglo-American intelligence networks affected the Dutch Republic and the revolutionary Atlantic. In the late 1770s, American revolutionaries successfully deployed their intelligence network to unleash a propaganda campaign that aimed to convince the Dutch public of their cause. By infiltrating the liberal and sophisticated Dutch printing press, the American revolutionaries not only succeeded in fostering political support among the Dutch public; they also created a transatlantic intellectual exchange with the Dutch opposition that laid the foundations of the Dutch Patriot movement of the 1780s and ultimately the dissolution of the Dutch Republic as a whole in 1795.