Conflict in the British Empire: The American Revolution 1770-1800


The British empire of the late 18th century had expanded through political, economic, and military means. When the battle of Bunker Hill occurred in June of 1775, the “First British Empire” had unified Scotland (1707), Mediterranean naval bases at Gibraltar (1713) and Minorca (1763), secured influence in India through the East India Company (1757), mapped New Zealand (1769), established control of Bermuda (1707), Florida (1763) and Canada (1763), solidified Caribbean colonies in the Bahamas (1718), Barbados (1652), Jamaica (1670), Belize (1642) and the Leeward Islands (1671).  The 13 British American colonies were developed with permanent settlements between 1607 (Virginia) and 1732 (Georgia).

In this global context, the British Empire’s colonies along the present day United Sates eastern seaboard were part of a larger established imperial system that would, after the Peace of Paris (1783) expand further and consolidate power in the 19th century. The uprising called the American revolution was, at the same time, a provincial civil war as well as a European Enlightenment era political action.  By exploring the imperial context of the American Revolution we complicate the national narrative that has been created and expand students’ understanding of international relations, global political structures, and the history of imperialism that extends into the 21st century.


Essential Questions:

  1. How does globalizing the narrative on the American Revolution impact your understanding of national history, identity, and nation building?
  2. In what ways and to what extent did the American Revolution impact other empires?
  3. What are the implications and new understandings that come from exploring the American Revolution from non-US perspectives?
  4. How does exploring the British empire, international relations, and the American Revolution impact your understanding of globalization?

Module Resources:

  1. Scholar Presentation: The British Empire and the Causes of the American Revolution presented by Professor Andrew O’Shaughnessy (2016)
  2. C3 Inquiry Resources
  3. Secondary Sources/Information Texts
  4. Primary Sources


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