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Borderland, Bordersea, Security, Identity, Empire, Reconstitution, Loyalism, Maritime, American Revolution, War of 1812
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“The Border-seas of a New British Empire” explores the relationship between the rebellious thirteen colonies and the British Atlantic Islands of Bermuda and the Bahamas, and how the “on the ground” impact of the American Revolution explains not only why they did not join the rebellion—despite initial sympathy for the cause—but illustrates also the long-term political, cultural, commercial, and military transformation wrought by the war and its aftermath. To understand the British Atlantic islanders’ allegiances during the American Revolution and the impact of the islands’ loss on the United States, this dissertation employs Atlantic, borderlands and border-seas, and security interpretive methods of analysis. This work pays close attention to Bermudian and Bahamian colonial documents, trade records, newspaper reports, and correspondence to illuminate the pragmatic and fluid nature of the islanders’ loyalties during the conflict. Records from the Continental Congress, American patriot diplomats, British colonial administrators, and the Admiralty reveal how American and British officials came to understand the British Atlantic Islands as strategic assets in the post-revolutionary war Atlantic world.
In 1775 and 1776, American patriots’ interactions with the neighboring British Atlantic Islands endeavored to solidify the revolutionary United States’ sovereignty and international security by pursuing plans to expand their territory beyond the North American mainland to avert future British military threats. The United States’ inability to wrest Bermuda and the Bahamas away from Britain through military force or diplomatic negotiations in 1783 constituted significant losses. Britain’s retention of both colonies enabled the Royal Navy and subversive British agents to challenge the nascent republic’s sovereignty in the western Atlantic and along its southeastern borderlands. British entrenchment at its Atlantic islands, and subsequent efforts to undermine American sovereignty, precipitated the War of 1812 and the United States military’s actions in Spanish Florida in 1819. “The Border-seas of a New British Empire” concludes that American patriots' inability to annex Bermuda and the Bahamas forced the independent United States to fight a serious of skirmishes and wars between 1783 and 1819.
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Nedervelt, Ross M., "The Border-seas of a New British Empire: Security and the British Atlantic Islands in the Age of the American Revolution" (2019). FIU Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 4230.
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