Britain’s American Problem: The International Perspective

P. J. Marshall

in The Oxford Handbook of the American Revolution

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199746705
Published online December 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Britain’s American Problem: The International Perspective

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  • History
  • United States History
  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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Britain valued its American colonies primarily because of their contribution to the nation's security, power, and influence in Europe. A recurring British fear was that France, Britain's inevitable enemy during the period, might invade the British Isles. Many argued that Britain must be actively engaged in Europe, and that it was a fundamental British interest to prevent the French from dominating the continent. There is a general consensus on the main trends in British foreign relations during the American Revolution. During the Seven Years' War, Britain was able to effectively distribute resources between European and global theaters of war. Throughout the 1760s and 1770s, however, it became increasingly isolated in Europe, and thus had no European ally when it tried to crush the American rebellion. The specter of a global war led the British governing elite to confront what they perceived to be their problem with the United States: owing to the weak governance of Britain's dependencies, the colonies were not capable of defending themselves or of making an adequate contribution to British efforts to defend them.

Keywords: Britain; colonies; Europe; France; foreign relations; Seven Years' War; American Revolution; United States

Article.  7535 words. 

Subjects: History ; United States History ; Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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