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Empire Loyalists: Histories of Rebellion and Collaboration

This is an AHRC-funded project about the history of British imperialism over more than two centuries, from the American war of independence in the late eighteenth century to the last wars of decolonisation at the end of the twentieth century. Its theme is collaboration - the history of the alliances, affiliations and co-options that made empire what it was. Without collaboration there would have been no British empire - loyalty to Britain was as much a part of the story of empire as were the more commonly studied themes of resistance and rebellion.

Empire loyalism is at its heart a very British concept. The notion of loyalism in the eighteenth century had acquired a very
definite meaning by the time Britain emerged as an imperial power in the aftermath of the Seven Years' War. Forged in
the fires of the threat of continental invasion, the Reformation, the Civil War, the Restoration and the Acts of Union,
loyalism entwined Protestantism, monarchism and patriotism into a coherent set of values centred upon notions of liberty. In the face of Catholic and republican challenges from home and overseas, loyalism defined what it meant to be British on the eve of empire. Taken abroad with the outflows of the British settlers, administrators and soldiers, loyalism as a means to claim imperial citizenship spread first to Ireland and then to North America, India, Australasia before finally reaching Africa at the end of the 19th century.

This project will then study the export of that idea, its subsequent transformation within the empire and, most importantly, those that appropriated it as a means to mediate their relationship with the imperial power and their power within newly subjugated societies.

Research has been carried out in archives in the UK, US, Kenya, South Africa, India, Ireland and Singapore.

Project team:
Professor David Anderson, William Bramwell, Professor Daniel Branch & Dr Paul Shirley.