“An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean”


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Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy
392 pages, 41 black-and-white illustrations, $22.50 paper

Many people might be surprised to learn that there were 26, not 13, British colonies in America in 1776. Of these, the six colonies in the Caribbean — Jamaica, Barbados, the Leeward Islands, Dominica, Grenada and Tobago, and St. Vincent — were among Britain’s wealthiest possessions. Yet despite their close contact with their mainland counterparts and their shared annoyance with the British administration, they did not rise up in rebellion against the Crown. “An Empire Divided” is the first in-depth and conclusive examination of why that was the case.

O’Shaughnessy traces a split in the politics of the mainland and island colonies to different reactions to the Stamp Act Crisis of 1765-66. Once the American Revolution began, it was unpopular in the British Caribbean, and the white colonists there cooperated with the British in defense of their islands. O’Shaughnessy decisively refutes the widespread belief that there was broad backing among the Caribbean colonists for the American Revolution and describes how the island colonies followed an increasingly divergent course from the former colonies to the north.

“An Empire Divided” has already garnered enthusiastic responses. Not only was it selected by the History Book Club as a main alternate, but Kirkus Reviews wrote that the book is “the best word on a subject basic to American and Caribbean history.” And Publishers Weekly claimed that “O’Shaughnessy has crafted a study that promises to change the way Americans think about the Revolution.”

—University of Pennsylvania Press

 

Originally published on August 31, 2000