Date of Award

8-13-2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

First Advisor

Ghulam A. Nadri

Second Advisor

Ian C. Fletcher

Third Advisor

Julia Gaffield

Fourth Advisor

Jari Eloranta

Abstract

This dissertation explores the dynamics of the maritime trade of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia during 1700-1775. Through a comparative analysis of these cities’ intra-imperial and trans-imperial trade, it seeks to understand the nature and significance of British imperial presence for the region’s commercial economy. Drawing on the existing literature and utilizing primary archival records and published sources, this study contributes to the historiography of British colonial North America in two major ways. First, it examines each of the three port complexes, to which Boston, New York, and Philadelphia served as the chief ports, and then treats them as parts of one large complex playing the role of a nodal center in the British imperial and Atlantic trade. It illuminates how each of the three port cities related with the other in a dynamic relationship of complementarity and competition. Second, this study moves away from the framework that examines the economy of this region primarily through exchange of goods and capital between the colonies and the metropolis. This research, while paying adequate attention to the scale and importance of colonial trade, underscores the significance of trans-imperial trade networks, which connected these colonial port cities with non-British ports on both American and European shores of the Atlantic Ocean. It shows that the region was economically less oriented towards Britain than to the rest of the world, which was a constant source of tension between the colony and metropole. As Boston, New York, and Philadelphia carried out a substantial trade with ports and places outside of the British Empire, colonial merchants in these cities resisted any mercantilist policies of the British Empire that sought to restrict access to global markets. Their resistance, either by circumventing the imperial policies or disregarding them altogether, continued throughout the 18th century and culminated in the war for independence between the fledgling United States and the British Empire. In addition, this study explores trade networks and mechanisms, which enabled merchants to navigate the political and economic challenges during this period.

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