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4 Multiple Currents 1715–53

Jeremy M. Black Indiana University Press ePub

The success we met with in trade was principally owing to the settlement and improvement of our colonies which are now become a fountain of wealth and the only branch of commerce, except that with Portugal, which gives a balance in favour of the British nation.

Old England, 18 February (os) 1744

The lure of the interior coexisted with the pressures arising from transoceanic links; there was coexistence but only at times close interaction. It is possible to present an account suggesting some sort of seamless link between frontiers and metropoles, provinces and capitals, but the reality was of a far more episodic and complex relationship both then and in other periods: links existed, but there were cross-currents including those arising from different priorities.

French policy provided a good example of this situation. The French were particularly active in the interior of North America, and their activities were far-flung. Fort Niagara was rebuilt in the 1720s. In the 1730s, Pierre Gaultier de La Vérendrye built a series of posts toward the sea then believed to be in what is now western Canada: Fort St. Charles (1732) on the Lake of the Woods was followed by Fort Maurepas (1734) at the southern end of Lake Winnipeg, and by Fort La Reine (1738) on the Assiniboine River. Fort Bourbon (1739) took the French presence to the northwest shore of Lake Winnipeg, Fort Dauphin (1742) established their presence on the western shore of Lake Winnipegosis, and Fort La Corne (1753) was founded near the Fords of the Saskatchewan. These fords were a crucial node of Native trade routes first reached by French explorers in 1739–40, and part of a geography of influence and power very different to that of the later world of roads and railways.

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6 Revolution, Transformation, and the Present

Jeremy M. Black Indiana University Press ePub

Modern military power is based upon technology, and technology is based upon computers. . . . We [the Soviet Union] will never be able to catch up with you [the United States] in modern arms until we have an economic revolution. And the question is whether we can have an economic revolution without a political revolution.

Nikolai Ogarkov, Chief of the Soviet General Staff, 1983, cited in the New York Times, August 20, 1992

The literature on recent, current, and future warfare is dominated by the language of change and modernization. As is the general pattern in modern culture, change and modernization are descriptive, prescriptive, and normative, being equated with improvement. Relative performance or promise is defined according to these emphases, as are the conflicts seen as worthy of attention by scholars, and therefore, in a circular sense, as contributing to their analyses. Such an approach to modernization, however, begs the question of what is a modern, let alone a more modern, style of military operations? This question is one of recurring relevance for military history and for understanding present and future situations, and thus links the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) discerned in the 1990s and 2000s to earlier episodes of what have been presented as military revolutions.

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15 Settling the North American Question 1865–71

Jeremy M. Black Indiana University Press ePub

The war left the Union with a massive and well-honed military, just over a million men strong at the start of 1865, and with the second-largest navy in the world: 671 warships, including seventy-one ironclads, in commission, as well as the prospect of further growth in the number of ships. This force appeared to offer options for expansion, or at least activity, notably against Canada and Mexico. Concerns about the former led Britain to press ahead with plans for Canadian unity through confederation, but the possibility of conflict focused on Mexico. After the war, American pressure for the departure of the French troops increased, and America’s nonrecognition of Maximilian’s government became more significant. There was an important popular dimension, with volunteers going to fight for Juárez. Sir Frederick Bruce, the British envoy in Washington, was being naïve, when he reported in January 1866:

As soon as the temper of this country allows the Mexican question to be discussed on its merits, it can be conclusively demonstrated that the Mexican people are at present incapable of appreciating a republican form of government, and the United States have the most direct interest in seeing a firm and orderly government substituted for the anarchy which has hitherto prevented the development of the resources of Mexico.

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4 Power and the Struggle for Imperial Mastery

Jeremy M. Black Indiana University Press ePub

Counterfactual speculations are most valid intellectually if considered like historical scholarship. As such, it is appropriate that these speculations engage explicitly with the problem of assessing both ideas and material factors, as well as conjunctures and structural factors, and treat each set of them as interdependent. The following three chapters relate, with a steadily sharper focus, to the struggle for imperial mastery that culminated in Britain becoming the leading world power. This chapter offers some theoretical points, the next considers the rise of the West, and chapter 6 assesses Britain’s success in terms of “Which West?” They should be read as a sequence, but can also be considered separately. This sequence links specific counterfactuals to a wider global approach. Moreover, aside from the inherent significance of the eighteenth century, it is also favored because it is easier to establish and discuss the alternatives from a more distant perspective and without the controversies, notably political controversies, that more recent counterfactuals lead to.

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7 The Historical Dimension of Manifest Destiny

Jeremy M. Black Indiana University Press ePub

The United States had gone through its own process of creating history in the wake of independence. The presentation of history, indeed, notably the history of winning independence, was an important aspect of American state-building and nation-forming. More recently, this presentation has played a central role in what the Americans see as culture wars. History wars proved an important component of these, although the term is a misnomer as fatalities scarcely match levels seen elsewhere in the world when such contests over identity are waged.

From the outset of American independence in 1776, the past was not only celebrated, but also contested as an aspect of debates and disputes over the nature and role of political authority. Particular controversy focused on the rights of federal and state authorities. These concerns affected interest in the history of other countries. This history, notably of countries when under republican governments, such as the Netherlands in the early-modern period, Classical Athens, and republican Rome, was scrutinized in order to provide constitutional guidance and political ammunition. The strong interest in history shown by the Founding Fathers focused on how to save republics from succumbing to foreign attack, domestic discord, or the rise of tyranny. James Madison, later fourth president, wrote a study of previous attempts at confederation. Thomas Jefferson, the second president as well as the founder of the University of Virginia, wanted modern history taught in order to show what he saw as the folly of the opposing Federalists.

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