Why did the British government pass the Stamp Act, the Townshend
Duties, the Tea Act and the Intolerable Acts? Why did they pass a series of measures seemingly calculated to offend and provoke North American colonists? These measures cannot be fully understood without taking into account a profound political economic debate taking place across the empire about the proper way of dealing with the national debt. This debate began not in the wake of the Seven Years War but in fact in the midst of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713). While everyone agreed that the debt was a potentially catastrophic problem, Britons disagreed as to whether the problem should be addressed by austerity measures or a program to stimulate imperial economic growth. In addition the particular measures adopted were deeply informed by the simultaneous emergence of a power British imperial presence in India after the seizure of the Diwani in 1765. Grenville, Townshend, North, Knox, and Wedderburn were just as much involved in debates over how to organize the empire in India as they were in the more well known debates about North America. It is impossible to understand their fiscal and administrative policies in the one place without considering in depth their views about the other.
Pincus is Bradford Durfee Professor of History and International and
Area Studies at Yale and director of the program on British Studies. He
has written widely on seventeenth and eighteenth century Britain, most
recently 1688: The First Modern Revolution. He is currently at work on a book entitled The Origins of the British Empire ca.1650-1784 and with the Harvard political scientist Jim Robinson The Divergence of Britain: a political account of the origins of the industrial revolution.
Gordon S. Wood is Alva O. Way University Professor and Professor of History Emeritus at Brown University. He taught at Harvard University and the University of Michigan before joining the faculty at Brown in 1969.
Wood is the author of The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787, which won the Bancroft Prize and the John H. Dunning Prize in 1970, and The Radicalism of the American Revolution, which won the Pulitzer Prize for History and the Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize in 1993. The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin (2004) was awarded the Julia Ward Howe Prize by the Boston Authors Club in 2005. His latest books are Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different, The Purpose of the Past: Reflections on the Uses of History and Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815.
Wood reviews in The New York Review of Books and The New Republic and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. He received his bachelor's degree from Tufts University and his Ph.D. from Harvard University. Wood previously lectured at Chautauqua in 2009, in a week on "The History of Liberty."