Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Age of Revolution, Atlantic, Citizenship, Commerce, Identity
Arts and Humanities
Operating Outside of Empire: Trading Citizenship in the Atlantic World, 1783-1815, looks at markets and ships as spaces for negotiation between merchants and the state. The dissertation follows the experiences of former British colonists in America who won independence and then immediately tried to find a way to get back into the British empire. For American merchants, such as Nicholas Low, William Constable, and Thomas Handasyd Perkins, the inconsistently-governed Caribbean provided an entry point to the greater British Atlantic and the markets of the empire. These merchants won access by exploiting the opportunities offered by environmental catastrophes, slave rebellions and trade wars.
The dissertation approaches the trade in identity through five chapters that trace the connections formed between transatlantic merchants and their relationship to an increasingly intrusive and powerful state apparatus. By taking citizenship and belonging in a new direction, the dissertation looks at the ways in which commerce reshaped nationality and challenged what it meant to be a citizen in the Atlantic World. Before the idea of the nation was fully formed, merchants, statesmen, and philosophers offered an alternative conception of belonging and nationality that was much more fluid and malleable. By focusing on information as a valuable commodity, the dissertation shows how letters filled with rumors and gossip sustained an economy without the official support of a government monopoly and even in opposition to the Royal Navy. It was through their discussions of demand and opportunity that merchants participated in debates about the nature of commerce, the loyalty of the citizen, and the role of the state in regulating national identity and international trade.
Dragoni, Mark, "Operating Outside of Empire: Trading Citizenship in the Atlantic World,
1783-1815" (2018). Dissertations - ALL. 843.