Warwick Newberry Workshop: Britain and the Birth of British America, 1700-1750

Center for Renaissance Studies Programs
Warwick-Newberry Collaborative Programs
Friday, March 25, 2011

Held at the University of Warwick, Coventry, England. The overall theme of this year’s workshops was “Connections, Convergences, and Disjuncture: The Joint Histories of England/Britain and English/British America, 1650-1750.”

The first half of the eighteenth century is a period of great importance in the histories of Britain (established by the union between England and Scotland in 1707), British America (increasingly important as the century progressed), the British Empire (undergoing significant transformations despite metropolitan indifference), and the Atlantic World (a world that can be seen as increasingly integrated during this period). This workshop sought to examine the underlying historiographical paradigms that have shaped historians’ understanding of this period, both for the study of British history and culture and also for British America. What is remarkable is how long-lasting and relatively uncontested they have been. For a generation, our understanding of the development of eighteenth-century Britain has been largely shaped by the idea that Britain developed into a fiscal-military state following the Glorious Revolution and the associated financial revolution of the 1690s and 1700s. That understanding itself has been influenced by two paradigms of even longer standing, the notion that Britain moved from chronic political instability in the seventeenth century to remarkable political stability, accompanied and facilitated by a developing sense of politeness engendered through participation in a distinctive public sphere. Our understanding of early eighteenth-century British America has also been shaped by paradigms of long standing. In particular, the growth, development, and remarkable social, demographic and economic successes of British America after 1720 have been considered within the concept of an Anglicising society and in an imperial context in which “salutary neglect” still plays an important role.

This workshop, examined whether some of these long-standing paradigms—often dismissed as inadequate but not yet replaced by other models with more explanatory power—need to be updated, reinvented, restored, or retired. Among a variety of themes explored were the fiscal-military state, the growth of political stability, the eighteenth-century urban renaissance, politeness and the public sphere, demographic transitions, slavery, the integration of a British Atlantic world, parliament and popular politics, class and deference, monarchy and republicanism, and the early Enlightenment.

Directors

Mark Knights, University of Warwick
Trevor Burnard, University of Melbourne

Guest Speakers

Simon Middleton, University of Sheffield
Steve Pincus, Yale University
Brendan Simms, University of Cambridge
Eric Slauter, University of Chicago
Nuala Zahedieh, University of Edinburgh

This is one of a series of collaborative programs between the University of Warwick Centre for the Study of the Renaissance and the Newberry Center for Renaissance Studies, funded by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

See the University of Warwick’s web page about this program. Learn more about the Center for Renaissance Studies’ Warwick-Newberry Collaborative Programs.

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