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date: 16 December 2017

Abstract and Keywords

The crisis experienced by the British Empire during the 1760s and 1770s has been linked to the decentralized nature of the empire built by the English on the far shores of the Atlantic world in the seventeenth century. The Crown, unwilling to pay the full costs of colonization, granted charters to corporations and proprietors. After delegating so much authority to the colonists, it was unable to unilaterally dictate how the empire was to be governed. For the most part, it was the colonial elites who were able to negotiate their relationship with the imperial center. This de facto decentralization did not sit well with royal officials, who wanted a more politically centralized empire and thought that colonies existed mainly for the mother country's economic benefit. To implement this contrasting vision, Parliament passed a series of Navigation Acts designed to confine colonial trade to English possessions and English-flagged vessels. In America, the debate over the Stamp Act of 1765 gave rise to a radically different view of the relationship between the mother country and its colonies.

Keywords: British Empire, decentralization, colonies, America, Stamp Act, Navigation Acts, colonial trade

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