Home / Colony to Superpower I: Things Fall Apart?

Colony to Superpower I: Things Fall Apart?


Erik’s response to my FCTS I (From Colony to Superpower: Chapter 1) post is up. A lot of the discussion we’ve been having regards counterfactuals, which is plenty entertaining but somewhat limiting. I wish Erik would expand on this point:

Also, I think westward expansion as a real reason for Revolution has probably been overhyped since 1776.

It’s not that I disagree; I’m just curious about the nature of the argument. Is Erik suggesting that the British would (eventually) have been just as comfortable with expansion as the colonists? This would seem plausible, although it’s fair to say that the gains from expansion (territory and property) would have been distributed much differently under a different relationship between the colonies and the metropol. That difference in distribution might well have produced a civil war or revolution by itself.

On a wholly different subject, Herring noted that there was a widespread expectation in Europe (particularly in Great Britain) that the United States would disintegrate, probably in five years or less. I’m not terribly surprised that there was such an expectation, but I do wonder about the details. Did the British think that the US would crack into 13 separate states, or along regional lines? Did they think that the recovery (voluntary or no) of the colonies would be possible? Individual states would have been extremely vulnerable to pressure from France or Spain, and might well have found the mother country a better option. Herring doesn’t give us any details, but I wonder whether the idea that Britain would recover the colonies anyway played a role in the debate over the wisdom of continuing the war, and in obdurate British policy following the war. Spanish and French expectations of American disintegration may also have played a role in their enthusiasm (such that it was) for American independence.

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