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The Oxford History of the British Empire: Volume V: Historiography$
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Robin Winks

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780198205661

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198205661.001.0001

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The First British Empire

The First British Empire

(p.43) 2 The First British Empire
The Oxford History of the British Empire: Volume V: Historiography

P. J. Marshall

Oxford University Press

By 1929, the tradition that British Imperial history could be divided into phases, with an ‘old’ or ‘first’ Empire separate from what was to follow, was long established. It was a tradition that went back into the first half of the 19th century. Throughout its long usage, there has been a rough consensus as to what is meant by the term ‘first British Empire’, even if some points have been contested. The first Empire was often said to have come into existence during the Interregnum, since the act passed in 1651 is usually taken as the prototype for the later Laws of Trade, and to have lasted until the Navigation Acts began to be modified and dismantled in the early 19th century. For those who saw the first Empire as dominated by the enforcement of commercial regulations, its constitutional or political history was a secondary issue. The concept of a first British Empire has proved to be a useful and even an indispensable one for some 150 years.

Keywords:   first British Empire, British Imperial history, Laws of Trade, Navigation Acts, commercial regulations, constitutional history, political history

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