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ZOOM: The End of Empire, The American Revolution and the British Empire   

**This class will be taught on Zoom**

Seen through American eyes, July 4, 1776 marks a triumphant moment: the birth of a bold new nation committed to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Through British eyes, the American Revolution looked quite different. This course will examine America’s through the lens of Britain’s Empire. Topics include the imperial dimensions of the Boston Tea Party, British views of the America war, Irish participation on both sides in the war, the fate of empire on Britain’s Caribbean islands, the ordeal of white loyalists and Black refugees, and the search for a site for a new penal colony that resulted in the rise of Australia after 1788.


Week by Week Outline


Tempest in a Tea Pot: The Boston Tea Party

The Boston Tea Party was a response to the 1773 Tea Act, new legislation designed to reduce tea smuggling within the British Empire and boost the sales of tea imported to the American colonies by the East India Company, a mega corporation with an all-too-cosy relationship to the British Government. But, of course, it all backfired spectacularly. In this class, we’ll explore how the resulting Boston Tea Party marks the first major protest in America against corporate greed and the effects of globalization. 


Disunited Kingdom: The American Revolution in Britain

Seen through American eyes, the Revolution marks a triumphant moment. Through British eyes, it looked quite different. To the King, the war for independence was an affront, a temper tantrum by an ungrateful colonial rabble. But, as we’ll explore in this class, beyond the palace and Parliament, British responses to the war were anything but monolithic. The country was bitterly divided as to what the war was about, how to win it, and whether it was worth it. 


The Fighting Irish: Ireland in the American Revolution

Men of Irish heritage played crucial roles in fighting the American Revolution, siding with the patriots against the British Army in overwhelming numbers. In this class, we will explore the Revolution from the perspective of the Irish and their descendants in America. Drawing on the latest scholarship, we’ll reconstruct the history of English and Irish antagonism, the role of religious faith in decisions about loyalty and affiliation, and the political and economic impact of the American Revolution on Ireland itself. 


The Jewel in the Crown: The American Revolution in the Caribbean

In 1775, the British Empire in the New World consisted not of thirteen colonies, but of almost thirty. The most valuable were in the Caribbean and Jamaica was the ‘jewel in the Crown,’ a sugar-exporting factory that generated more wealth for Britons that most mainland colonies combined. In this class, we will explore how fearful imperial officials worked to split their empire in half, insulating the British West Indies from the contagion of revolution by any means possible. 


White Loyalists and Black Refugees

For white loyalists, American independence was disastrous. In the first half of this class, we will examine why so many ordinary Americans chose to remain loyal to Britain, what that decision cost them in wartime, and how their lives changed once the patriots won. For enslaved African Americans, the Revolution was a freedom war—a once-in-a-century opportunity to try to escape slavery during the chaos of the conflict. The second half of this class explores the phenomenon of Black insurgency during the war years via the life of Harry, the former enslaved stable hand of George Washington. 


The Newer World: The American Revolution and Australia 

The loss of thirteen American colonies turned Britain’s empire upside down, shutting off a transatlantic passage that the British government had used to dump convicted criminals in the Chesapeake colonies in huge quantities before the war. In the wake of independence, that government pivoted decisively, establishing a new penal colony near Port Jackson, New South Wales, in 1788. With those first 736 convicts and forced migrants came guards, supervisors, support staff and their families, seeding English settlement of Australia and turning that vast continent into the newest jewel in Britain’s imperial crown.


This class is not available at this time.  

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