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Program in British Studies

James Vaughn, 'The Decline and Fall of Whig Imperialism, 1756-1783'

Fri, October 16, 2009 | Tom Lea Rooms, HRC 3.206

3:00 PM

In between the outbreak of the Seven Years' War in 1756 and the conclusion of the War for American Independence in 1783, the British Empire shifted from Atlantic commercial and colonial expansion to political dominion and territorial conquest in Asia.  Accompanying this shift was the abandonment of the long-standing British ideal of an 'empire of liberty' in favor of an avowedly despotic and military imperialism.  Why did the British Empire undergo such a dramatic transformation in ideology and practice?  This lecture will argue that the imperial transformation was the symptomatic expression of a wide-ranging crisis in British state and society.  This crisis ultimately caused the death of Whig Britain and, with it, the decline and fall of Whig imperialism.
James M. Vaughn is an Assistant Professor of History and a Junior Fellow in British Studies.  He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.  He is an historian of eighteenth and nineteenth-century Britain.  He is working on a book that examines mid-eighteenth-century British politics and the transformation of the East India Company from a commercial corporation into a territorial empire on the Indian subcontinent.

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