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Experiencing Empire

Power, People, and Revolution in Early America
Patrick Griffin

BUY Cloth · 280 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813939889 · $39.50 · Jul 2017
BUY Ebook · 280 pp. · ISBN 9780813939896 · $39.50 · Jul 2017

Born of clashing visions of empire in England and the colonies, the American Revolution saw men and women grappling with power— and its absence—in dynamic ways. On both sides of the revolutionary divide, Americans viewed themselves as an imperial people. This perspective conditioned how they understood the exercise of power, how they believed governments had to function, and how they situated themselves in a world dominated by other imperial players.

Eighteenth-century Americans experienced what can be called an "imperial-revolutionary moment." Over the course of the eighteenth century, the colonies were integrated into a broader Atlantic world, a process that forced common men and women to reexamine the meanings and influences of empire in their own lives. The tensions inherent in this process led to revolution. After the Revolution, the idea of empire provided order—albeit at a cost to many—during a chaotic period.

Viewing the early republic from an imperial-revolutionary perspective, the essays in this collection consider subjects as far-ranging as merchants, winemaking, slavery, sex, and chronology to nostalgia, fort construction, and urban unrest. They move from the very center of the empire in London to the far western frontier near St. Louis, offering a new way to consider America’s most formative period.


Experiencing Empire is a timely contribution to our understanding of America’s imperial origins. Superb essays by editor Patrick Griffin and the distinguished scholar T. H. Breen provide an illuminating interpretative framework for this impressive, wide-ranging collection.

Peter S. Onuf, University of Virginia, author of The Mind of Thomas Jefferson

Thirteen superb scholars here examine the era of the American Revolution through the lens of empire and see the standard turning points of 1763, 1776, and 1787 in a dazzling new light. The result will encourage students and scholars alike to reexamine familiar events in ways that challenge, enlighten, and provoke. Experiencing Empire is as stimulating and rewarding a collection of essays as I have read in the last twenty years.

Fred Anderson, University of Colorado, Boulder, author of Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766

[A] scintillating collection of essays that explore the revolutionary era through the framework of empire. With topics ranging from failed vineyards to illicit sex, this innovative scholarship encourages readers to view empire not as an abstraction but as a reality negotiated every time people interact with power.


About the Author(s): 

Patrick Griffin, Department Chair and Madden-Hennebry Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame, is the author of America’s Revolution.

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