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The British Isles and the War of American Independence$
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Stephen Conway

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780199254552

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199254552.001.0001

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War, Peace, and Empire

War, Peace, and Empire

(p.315) 9 War, Peace, and Empire
The British Isles and the War of American Independence

Stephen Conway

Oxford University Press

This chapter asks whether the experience of the American conflict altered British attitudes to war and to empire. In many senses the answer must be no, continuity is often the dominant impression. But in certain respects attitudes did change. The American war saw the first sustained and large-scale public criticism of the use of military force as an instrument of policy. While the criticism was directed, for the most part, at the justice and wisdom of fighting fellow subjects, rather than a genuine expression of hostility to war as such, it prepared the ground for the more clearly anti-war campaigns in the struggle against revolutionary and Napoleonic France. Attitudes to empire also underwent change. Opposition to the possession of overseas territories, while gaining converts in intellectual circles, remained very much a minority view, but the loss of America accentuated a process of change in the nature of the empire, and with this change came an important shift in public perceptions.

Keywords:   American war, British Isles, empire, attitude change

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