Synopses & Reviews
There were 26--not 13--British colonies in America in 1776. Of these, the six colonies in the Caribbean--Jamaica, Barbados, the Leeward Islands, Grenada and Tobago, St. Vincent; and Dominica--were among the wealthiest. These island colonies were closely related to the mainland by social ties and tightly connected by trade. In a period when most British colonists in North America lived less than 200 miles inland and the major cities were all situated along the coast, the ocean often acted as a highway between islands and mainland rather than a barrier.The plantation system of the islands was so similar to that of the southern mainland colonies that these regions had more in common with each other, some historians argue, than either had with New England. Political developments in all the colonies moved along parallel tracks, with elected assemblies in the Caribbean, like their mainland counterparts, seeking to increase their authority at the expense of colonial executives. Yet when revolution came, the majority of the white island colonists did not side with their compatriots on the mainland.A major contribution to the history of the American Revolution, An Empire Divided traces a split in the politics of the mainland and island colonies after the Stamp Act Crisis of 1765-66, when the colonists on the islands chose not to emulate the resistance of the patriots on the mainland. Once war came, it was increasingly unpopular in the British Caribbean; nonetheless, the white colonists cooperated with the British in defense of their islands. O'Shaughnessy decisively refutes the widespread belief that there was broad backing among the Caribbean colonists for the American Revolution and deftly reconstructs the history of how the island colonies followed an increasingly divergent course from the former colonies to the north.
"When the conflict broke out, opposition to the revolution was not restricted to the Metropole. Though linked by blood, marriage, and, most importantly, trade to the 13 colonies of the mainland, colonists in the British West Indies did not support the American insurrectionists when the war started. Fearful of the effect the revolutionary spirit could have on their islands, British West Indian colonists actively sought to limit its spread. An Empire Divided explores the various factors that led to the development of the radically divergent attitudes toward Crown rule and independence. Yet the usefulness of O'Shaughnessy's analysis extends beyond its informative contrast of multiple plantation societies in the British Empire. It provides another perspective for viewing the Revolution and its meaning." Reviewed by Andrew Witmer, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
"O'Shaughnessy's excellent, clearly written book is an important contribution to Caribbean and US history. He successfully explains why the Caribbean colonists, far from supporting the American Revolution, preferred to keep the British empire intact. . . . Highly recommended."--"Choice"
Includes bibliographical references (p. -341) and index.