War, Finance, and the Origins of the British-American Imperial Crisis, 1739-1774

Fifield, Donovan, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Edelson, S. Max, History, University of Virginia

This essay argues that the American imperial crisis emerged from political animosities that originated with a credit crisis during the Seven Years' War in North America. Years before the British administrative reforms beginning in 1764, many Americans were struggling to recover debts that they had extended to elite merchant networks, specifically that of Charles Ward Apthorp, the primary colonial contractor for the American northeast north of Philadelphia. Local financiers promised repayment using their connections to empire as proof of their ability to access specie. The Royal Treasury proved unable to meet these promises spurring debt litigation in which Apthorp and other elite Tories emerged the victor. The fallout from this credit crisis fueled animosity towards royal officials and contractors like Apthorp and Thomas Hutchinson beginning in 1764. These animosities continued until armed conflict broke out in Massachusetts in 1775. I depict a long build up to the credit crisis, originating with competition between the Apthorp and Hancock families beginning in 1739, and the effects of imperial and provincial politics on their successes and failures.

MA (Master of Arts)
early america, atlantic economy, finance, American Revolution, imperial crisis, Seven Years' War, debt litigation
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