Award Date

8-1-2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

First Committee Member

David Holland

Second Committee Member

Michelle Tusan

Third Committee Member

Andrew Bell

Fourth Committee Member

David Fott

Number of Pages

134

Abstract

This study examines how events in one part of the British Empire had unintended consequences in another part of the empire through the examination of a much neglected piece of eighteenth century British legislation, the Quebec Act and the relationship within Greater Britain between the metropole and the American colonies. This examination of the Quebec Act involves, in part, analyzing the evolving national identities within Greater Britain in the framework of the principles of the Glorious Revolution and anti-Catholicism. The Quebec Act brought to the fore the differences of identity within Greater Britain through different interpretations of the adaptability of the Revolutionary Settlement and the suspicion of Roman Catholics. At the end of the seventeenth-century, the Glorious Revolution brought the identities of Britons and North American colonists closer together under the symbolic region of Greater Britain. Greater Britons shared similar attitudes towards constitutional tenets and religion as reaffirmed by the Revolutionary Settlement. In time, however, the principles of the Settlement and the attitude towards Romans Catholics would tear apart Greater Britain.

This study contributes to the existing scholarship by connecting the reassessment of British and American national identities to their respective standings within the Empire. It argues that changes in the consciousness of sections of the populations of Greater Britain--the political and intellectual elite of Britain and the Patriots of the colonies-- caused Britons and colonials to interpret the events of the 1760s and 1770s in different ways--igniting the misunderstandings of each other's actions and the trigger for war.

On one hand, modern scholars have more recently considered matters of national identity as the root of the issue and downplayed the importance of colonial unrest in the narrative of the genesis of the Act. Earlier scholars, however, considered the Act as a calculated response to colonial rebellion, and therefore downplayed the role a changing metropolitan culture. This thesis considers these two contradictory positions as complementary rather than mutually exclusive. Changing metropolitan views of British identity and the growing unrest in the colonies are not competing narratives, but are interrelated realities that shaped both each other and the Parliamentary action concerning Quebec.

In sum, the Quebec Act is a significant topic for study to understand why British and American relations soured during the mid-1760s and early 1770s explaining, in part, the demise of the First British Empire. Furthermore, the Quebec Act reflected the diverging identities across the Atlantic, resulting in the divorce of the American colonies from the mother country.

Keywords

American Revolution (1775-1783); Eighteenth Century; Glorious Revolution; Great Britain; National characteristics; Nationalism; Quebec; Quebec Act (Quebec (Province))

Disciplines

Cultural History | History | Political History

Language

English


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