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“A Hemisphere to Itself ”: The American Revolution and the Entangled History of the Western Atlantic

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Chapter Summary

The distinction between the law of nations' European and extra-European dimensions had its origins in the exceptionalist assumptions that coloured Europe's own history. By the time of the American Revolution, the doctrine of autonomous spheres was no longer a formally acknowledged part of European international relations, yet two factors made Anglo-Americans reluctant to abandon it entirely. The first was the British Empire's character as a loose-knit consortium of forts, factories, and colonies, over which the British state exercised what Jack Greene has called a "negotiated authority". The other differentiating factor between Europe and America, one directly related to the extra-European weakness of the European state, was the absence of clear, universally recognised European jurisdictions. Because Anglo-Americans continued to look across the Atlantic for validation of their independence, one of the revolution's most enduring consequences was to involve the United States as never before in the entangled history of Europe.

Keywords: American Revolution; entangled history of Europe; law of nations; Western Atlantic



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