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date: 25 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The phrase ‘British Atlantic’ brings together two terms that emerged rather belatedly (and perhaps unhelpfully) in the history of English colonisation. From the late seventeenth century onward, the English colonies underwent unprecedented population growth, which inspired new faith in colonists' ability to adapt to and dominate the New World. While other European empires may also have had either a degree of colonial autonomy or rapid population growth, only English-speaking colonists gained confidence from both characteristics. But this settler confidence was challenged, from the mid-eighteenth century onward, by the creation of a British empire with Atlantic dimensions. Because settlers in the English-speaking colonies had for a long time connected a non-British identity, meaning Englishness, to being an ocean away from England itself, the newly British and Atlantic empire was less inviting to them and the temptation to define Americans' political and natural interests as separate from Great Britain was eventually overwhelming. In Parliament and beyond, Britons and British Americans discussed the problems of slavery and openly contemplated how the slave trade and forced labour might not have an indefinite future.

Keywords: British Atlantic, colonisation, colonies, England, Great Britain, British empire, population growth, slavery, slave trade, forced labour

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