The Imperial Crisis

Craig B. Yirush

in The Oxford Handbook of the American Revolution

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 The Imperial Crisis

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  • History
  • United States History
  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)
  • Colonialism and Imperialism


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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

Article.  9309 words. 

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

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