Field of Study
Early Modern Europe, Citizenship, The Atlantic & Mediterranean Worlds
Operating Outside of Empire: Trade and Citizenship in the Atlantic World, 1783-1815
Dissertation DescriptionMy dissertation is about citizenship and mercantilism in the Atlantic World from 1783-1815. The dissertation examines merchant practice at the edge of empire and the competing discourses on illicit trade and national identity that statesmen, pamphleteers and merchants participated in. Under increasing demands for consumer goods, the British Empire was often willing to bend supposedly strict mercantilist regulations to guarantee the steady supply of commodities in the metropole. The dissertation looks at how merchants moved in-between competing mercantile systems and gained access to new markets in periods of crisis by exploiting loopholes and the lax enforcement of the Navigation Acts. The pursuit of new markets forced merchants to cultivate connections with foreign firms often building new networks of trust and mutual exchange through transatlantic correspondence. By examining the exchange of information, along with more traditional commodities, we are able to connect merchant business to the eighteenth-century world of ideas. As merchants questioned the limits of national identity, their trade came under attack during the French Revolution as the definition of the citizen became increasingly narrow and restrictive. When states began to limit membership to the nation at home, participation in an Atlantic community as a neutral citizen was no longer possible or profitable. The climate of intense nationalism brought on by the French Revolutionary Wars forced all members of the Atlantic World to take a side.