The Empire That Britain Kept

Eliga H. Gould

in The Oxford Handbook of the American Revolution

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 The Empire That Britain Kept

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)
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William Augustus Bowles was a loyalist soldier during the American Revolution who also acted as an agent for the British governor of the Bahamas. Had events gone his way, he could have become the Anglo-Creek leader of a British protectorate on North America's Gulf Coast, but instead, was considered a pirate and died in a Havana jail in 1805 while awaiting trial. Bowles's saga shows that the British Empire was not only a formal but also an informal empire. None had a greater stake in understanding how Britain's informal empire worked than the citizens of the thirteen states that gained independence from the British in 1783. It would be more accurate to see the American Revolution as the moment when Americans began to make the history that other nations and people were prepared to let them make. In this entangled history, Britain played the most significant role. Three pillars of its informal empire were commerce, diplomacy, and international law.

Keywords: Britain; informal empire; commerce; diplomacy; international law; American Revolution; William Augustus Bowles; British Empire; independence

Article.  7624 words. 

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

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