At Water's Edge: Empire, Security and Conflict on the Docks in British America, 1713-1773

North Theatre, Room 239, Old Arts

MA Confirmation Seminar - Toby Nash

The British mercantilist state relied heavily on the orderly extraction of wealth from its colonies. I argue that a key area of this process in British America was the waterfront region in its Atlantic coast port-cities. Relating this space to the Empire as a whole, I aim to answer the question of how the format and function of the colonial urban waterfront space affected imperial governance. Looking at the specific function of these spaces, the colonial waterfront thus appears as an important bottleneck for the movements of goods, people and capital. This area required effective imperial regulation, but as I aim to show, this was also a zone of contact and conflict. Viewing the waterfront as such, I hope to demonstrate how at the vital waterfront exchange, the Empire displayed vulnerability to commercial and administrative disruption, impairing its larger mercantilist goals.