Dec. 12, 2023

Episode 4: The Empire

Great Britain's conquest of New France in North America and its victory in the Seven Years' War inspired British subjects on both sides of the Atlantic to look forward to a future they could see but through a glass darkly, as they struggled to make...

Great Britain's conquest of New France in North America and its victory in the Seven Years' War inspired British subjects on both sides of the Atlantic to look forward to a future they could see but through a glass darkly, as they struggled to make sense of the world that lay ahead, and the cost of the war they had won.

Featuring: Fred Anderson, Christian Ayne Crouch, Max Edelson, Kathleen DuVal, Patrick Griffin, and Jon Kukla.

Voice Actors: Norman Roger, Anne Fertig, Nicholas Cole, Spencer McBride, and John Turner.

Narrated by Jim Ambuske.

Worlds Turned Upside Down is a production of R2 Studios at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.

Further Reading:

Fred Anderson, The Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754 - 1766 (2001).

Jeremy Black, George III: America's Last King (2009).

Christian Ayne Crouch, Nobility Lost: French and Canadian Martial Cultures, Indians, and the End of New France (2014).

Kathleen DuVal, Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution (2016).

S. Max Edelson, The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America before Independence (2017).

Lorri Glover, Eliza Lucas Pinckney: An Independent Woman in the Age of Revolution (2020).

Patrick Griffin, The Townshend Moment: The Making of Empire and Revolution in the Eighteenth Century (2017).

Michele Navakas, Liquid Landscape: Geography and Settlement at the Edge of Early America (2017).

Primary Sources:

Robert SayerAn accurate map of North America describing and distinguishing the British and French dominions on this great continent according to the definitive treaty concluded at Paris 10th February 1763. (London, 1763). Library of Congress: Geography and Map Division, Washington, D.C.

"West Florida," The Georgia Gazette, 10 January 1765.

His Majesty’s Most Gracious Speech to Both Houses of Parliament, On . . . the Eighteenth Day of November, 1760, Printed by Thomas Baskett and Sold by Thomas Kitchen, London, 1760. The American Revolution Institute, Society of the Cincinnati, Washington, D.C. 

Eliza Lucas Pinckney to Wilhelmina-Catharine Troye King, (Mrs. Thomas), 27 February 1762, The Papers of Eliza Lucas Pinckney and Harriott Pinckney Horry, Rotunda: University of Virginia Press.

Debate in the Commons on the Preliminary Treaty of Peace with France and Spain, 9 December 1762, William Cobbett, The Parliamentary History of England From The Earliest Period To The Year 1803 (London, 1813): 15:1271.

“Petition of the Merchants of Philadelphia to the King, [18 November 1752?],” Founders Online, National Archives,


Worlds Turned Upside Down

Episode 4: "The Empire"
Published 12/12/2023

Written by Jim Ambuske

JIM AMBUSKE: Isabella Chrystie was newly wed when she boarded a ship in Scotland bound for British America. In August 1769, she married James Bruce, a naval officer who was a veteran of the Seven Years’ War. 

AMBUSKE: Bruce had land in North America, in a settlement called Pensacola, in the new British colony of West Florida. He had 4,000 acres there. They were his reward from the king for his service in the war.

AMBUSKE: Bruce also had a prominent station in life. He was a member of the provincial council, the body of men who advised the governor, and he served as Collector of His Majesty’s Customs in the province as well. Bruce had lived in the colony for five years before his wedding. Occasionally, he returned to Scotland, where he must have met Chrystie, and impressed her family with his standing in the Empire.

AMBUSKE: We don’t know much about Chrystie’s life. Like so many women in the eighteenth-century, few, if any, of her letters survive. We must read carefully through her husband’s records and other evidence to find her, to find the woman who would  become Mrs. Bruce of West Florida.

AMBUSKE: West Florida was a new British place. It used to be a Spanish one. When European powers agreed to peace in 1763, the Spanish – who had belatedly entered the Seven Years’ War on the side of the French - ceded La Florida to the victorious British. But it was first an Indigenous place, with peoples like the Creeks, Chickasaws, and Choctaws calling the region home.

AMBUSKE: West Florida was a far different world than the one Chrystie had known for most of her young life. She might have been twenty-seven when she married Bruce in Auchterless, Aberdeenshire, on August 8, 1769. The rolling green hills and wind-swept brown craigs of the Scottish northeast had always been her home. Summers were mild there and winter storms brought cold rains. The nearby port city of Aberdeen connected Scotland to the North Sea trade, and to Northern Europe. 

AMBUSKE: If she had the latest maps, she would have seen a vast early American world that was more expansive and more complicated than when her husband had fought in the war. Chrystie’s intended destination encompassed parts of what is now Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, all remnants of the Spanish and French empires on the American mainland. In many ways, these places had more in common with Jamaica, Barbados, and Charleston, than they did with Philadelphia, New York, or Boston.

AMBUSKE: A glance to the right would have revealed the colony of East Florida, a place more recognizable to us in our own time, yet just as strange, for European cartographers in the late eighteenth century were unsure if the peninsula was a single landmass or a series of incomprehensible islands.

AMBUSKE: If Chrystie looked north, she would have spied Canada, once known as the colony of New France, which had surrendered to the British nine years before. Other British emigrants like her were headed for Quebec, Nova Scotia, and St. Johns Island, what we now call “Prince Edward Island.”

AMBUSKE: Perhaps Chrystie and Bruce caught a ship in Aberdeen on their way to West Florida. More likely, they traveled south, first to Edinburgh, and then west to Glasgow, a city enriched by the profits of American tobacco and Caribbean sugar, all produced by enslaved people.

AMBUSKE: Late in the summer of 1769, the newlyweds boarded their ship. They were among the tens of thousands of English, Scottish, and Irish emigrants who ventured to North America in the years after the Seven Years’ War. To take advantage of the world the war had made. Their ship carried them first south past Europe and West Africa. They then headed west across the Atlantic, to the port of Kingston, Jamaica.

AMBUSKE: By this point in his life, Bruce wouldn’t have thought twice about the fact that the overwhelming majority of the island’s inhabitants were enslaved West Africans. Nor of the tropical fruits or chocolate luxuries the enslaved loaded onto ships headed for Britain or the American mainland.

AMBUSKE: Enslaved people were not unknown in Great Britain, nor were free people of color. But if Chrystie was taken aback by the sights and sounds of the enslaved in Jamaica, they would soon become part of her everyday life, anyway.

AMBUSKE: From Kingston, Chrystie and Bruce would have sailed northwest, perhaps past Havana, a city once again in Spanish hands, but conquered by the British in 1762.

AMBUSKE: Together, Chrystie and Bruce would build a new life on the Gulf coast, in the new colony of West Florida, on plantations and dockyards worked by their enslaved West Africans, some of whom they called “Glasgow,” “Aberdeen,” and “Caithness,” after the Scottish places the couple had left behind.

AMBUSKE: Their new home was but one of twenty-six British American colonies. It was but one place on a new map of empire, of which many people were a part, but few could comprehend in whole.

AMBUSKE: And in the early 1760s, in the years just after the end of the Seven Years’ War, as British subjects on both sides of the Atlantic looked forward to a future they could see but through a glass darkly, they struggled to make sense of the world that lay ahead, and the cost of the war they had won.

AMBUSKE: I’m Jim Ambuske, and this is Worlds Turned Upside Down, a podcast about the history of the American Revolution.

AMBUSKE: Episode 4: The Empire

AMBUSKE: The surrender of Montreal in September 1760 all but ended the Seven Years’ War in North America. Britain’s triumph over the French and the defeat of New France, a victory made possible by the Haudenosaunee, Delawares, and other Indigenous peoples, left British subjects in America and at home in a euphoric state.

AMBUSKE: On October 9, 1760, just over a month to the day since General Jeffrey Amherst compelled Governor Vaudruil of New France to surrender his colony, Thomas Foxcroft, the congregationalist minister of the First Church of Boston, delivered a sermon to his Godly flock on the significance of the victory for Great Britain and its Empire.

AMBUSKE: The First Church was as old as Boston itself. It was founded in 1630, in the time of John Winthrop, and his City upon a Hill. From the pulpit, Foxcroft reflected on the fiery trial through which the British had just passed on the road to victory in North America:

THOMAS FOXCROFT (SPENCER MCBRIDE): In vain had there been repeated Attempts before, to effect what is now so happily accomplished. Long had it been the common Opinion [that] The American Carthage must be reduced, Canada must be conquer’d: or we could hope for no lasting Quiet in these Parts. Long has this been the Object of our Attention, and the Matter of our Prayers: but judg’d an Event rather to be wished, than hoped for. Yet now at length, through the good Hand of our God upon us, we see the happy Day of its Accomplishment. We hear the joyful News, – not of this or the other Fortress of the Enemy reduced, – not of this or the other Town surrendered, but of their whole Country conquered, conquered by British Arms, and subjected to British Government.

AMBUSKE: For Foxcroft, and for many British subjects, the fall of New France and the acquisition of Canada was….

FOXCROFT: …of vast Importance to the Interest and Influence of Britain, and of the last Consequence to the Safety and Happiness of these[,] its Colonies.[1]

AMBUSKE: But how, exactly? That was the main question that British and British Americans had been struggling to answer since the war began in 1754. If the Seven Years’ War had ended in 1760, with New France’s defeat, the king’s subjects might have arrived at entirely different conclusions.

FRED ANDERSON: But the war doesn't end in 1760. If it did, it might things might have come out quite differently.

ANDERSON: I’m Fred Anderson, professor emeritus University of Colorado Boulder

ANDERSON: But instead, the war wears on through 1761 and the conquest of much of islands in the Caribbean. Ultimately, with the conquest in 1762 of Havana, after the Spanish of unwisely, intervened to try to bring the war to a diplomatic conclusion short of total disaster and fiasco. So you've got this, remarkable set of developments after the end of 1760, which completely changes everything, including the loss of Manila for God's sake, to this raggedy expedition that gets mounted out of out of India, by the British, and they wind up in control Manila. Talk about uprooting the whole of global Palin's balance of power. I mean, that's the China trade. You see, there's so much that happens between 1760 and 1763, the end of the war in Europe that, that leads to a whole different set of expectations among the French, the British, and the Spanish about what the future is going to look like.

AMBUSKE: The conquest of Canada in 1760, and the formal end of the war in Europe three years later, led to a different set of consequences, some intended, many others not, that shaped events in the years to come, because:

 ANDERSON: The American Revolution, in the sort of the stressful period between 1763 and 1775, is all about dealing with the aftermath of the Seven Years’ War, which was the greatest Imperial victory in English history. Because the British didn't understand what they had done.

AMBUSKE: So, what had the British done? What expectations did British and British Americans have for the future? And what did it mean for the many people who suddenly became subjects of a new king, George III?

AMBUSKE: To begin answering these questions, we’ll head back to London, where the cost of the war and the price of victory compelled British politicians to make difficult choices to win a fragile peace.

AMBUSKE: We’ll then consider British ambitions for transforming British America, and the newly acquired territories, into the kind of empire that many had longed for it to be.

AMBUSKE: We’ll then venture south, to the Gulf Coast and the Caribbean, where the British envisioned a profitable, new plantation enterprise, one that came with a price.  

MAX EDELSON: At the end of the Seven Years War, which was the Great War for Empire between Britain and France and also Spain, North America was really at stake

EDELSON: I'm Max Edelson. I'm Professor of History at the University of Virginia

MAX EDELSON: And Great Britain, because of its military victories at the end of the war came to the negotiations at Paris in 1762, in a very strong negotiating position, so their goal at the end of the war was to resolve the problem of North America.

AMBUSKE: Much had changed since the fall of New France in September 1760 and the beginning of formal peace negotiations in Paris in September 1762.

AMBUSKE: Sixteen days after Thomas Foxcroft preached his sermon in the First Church of Boston, King George II died on October 25, 1760. In an instant, his death brought to the throne his grandson, a twenty-two year old who became George III.

AMBUSKE: Unlike his German-born great-grandfather and grandfather, George III was born in England. As he said in a speech to Parliament on November 18, 1760, “I glory in the name of Briton.” It was a sign that unlike his predecessors, he was less enamored with the affairs of Europe, and more infatuated with the affairs of the empire, of which North America was a key piece.

AMBUSKE: In his diary, a young Boston lawyer named John Adams approved of George III’s speech. He wrote, "These are sentiments worthy of a King—a Patriot King.”

AMBUSKE: In the eighteenth century, British monarchs had considerably more power than they do today. Thoug h the monarch ruled in tandem with Parliament, a feature of the British constitution that George III considered sacrosanct, when the king invited a minister to form a government in his name, it was no mere formality. The sovereign could choose his government’s new leader from among the political faction elected to power.

AMBUSKE: And with George III’s ascension in 1760, the political landscape in Britain began to shift, as the financial costs of the war continued to mount, seemingly without end.

AMBUSKE: Here’s Jon Kukla, a historian of early America. 

JON KUKLA: One of the things that strikes me about the situation at the end or of actually nearing the end of the Seven Years War is the variation in how people perceived the situation of Great Britain visa vie the world. It's a complicated picture, frankly.

KUKLA: The colonial Americans are absolutely exuberant and enthusiastic about how wonderful this is that they have defeated the Papist threat in North America and in Europe, and people historians have observed that at probably at no other time in the history of North America have the, settler colonials, been so enthusiastic to be Britain's they think this is wonderful, and that the future is, is incredibly bright.

KUKLA: But one thing that's part of the picture is the fact that George second died in 1760. And George the Third his grandson is new on the throne. And a very young and relatively inexperienced man.

KUKLA: There's a group of there's a group of people around William Pitt, who had been the principal leader, who brought about really their success in the Seven Years War, who really wanted to continue fighting, their idea is that they should basically crush France and, and all future prospects of, of the French continuation in that kind of century of conflict with Great Britain.

KUKLA: There's another group around the Duke of Newcastle, who was also a previous leader of the government, who believes that they need to negotiate a peace because the war is too expensive.

KUKLA: And then there's the king and his minister and Lord Bute, who are basically trying to figure out how to plan for, for the expectation of the next war.

AMBUSKE: With George III’s rise came William Pitt’s fall.

AMBUSKE: Pitt, the de facto prime minister, had reversed Britain’s fortunes beginning in the late 1750s by borrowing staggering sums of money to fund the war effort in both Europe and North America. He also placated British Americans by agreeing to reimburse their provinces for expenses, harmonized the relationship between provincial forces and the regular army, and stripped British commanders-in-chief of their power to command colonial assemblies.

AMBUSKE: But Pitt’s ambitions for the war seemed to have no limit. He resisted calls to end subsidies to Britain’s European allies. He also urged the cabinet to authorize a pre-emptive strike on Spain.

AMBUSKE: George III and Pitt had once been political allies, but the new king and his mentor John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, saw Pitt as an impediment to peace. They maneuvered to force Pitt’s resignation in October 1761.

AMBUSKE: By then, the war was costing Britain £20 million annually. Taxes on the British public and from other sources of revenue like customs duties could only cover one-third of that cost, with half of all revenues going to cover interest on the debt.

AMBUSKE: British subjects on both sides of the Atlantic felt the financial burden of the war.

AMBUSKE: Eliza Lucas Pinckney was one of them.

AMBUSKE: Pinckney was born on Antigua, where her father served as the sugar island’s lieutenant governor. As a child she demonstrated a remarkable talent for botany. And unlike Isabella Chyrsite, many of Pinckney’s letters have survived the ravages of time.

AMBUSKE: In the late 1730s, when Pinckney was 16 years old, she moved to Wappoo, one of her family’s rice plantations near Charleston, South Carolina, where she oversaw the enslaved people who labored in the fields. There, Pinckney began experimenting with indigo, a plant whose flowers can be rendered into a deep, vivid, blue dye. Thanks in part to her efforts, by the late 1740s indigo joined rice as one of South Carolina’s chief exports.

AMBUSKE: By the early 1760s, Pinckney was a widower and a leading planter in the colony. She managed her plantations while her sons were educated in London, in the capital of British America, a city where she had for five years, once lived.

AMBUSKE: On February 27, 1762, Pinckney wrote to Wilhelmina-Catharine Troye King, her friend in England, reflecting on the ongoing war in Europe and the taxes required to fund it.

ELIZA LUCAS PINCKNEY (ANNE FERTIG): “When my Dr. Madam shall we have peace? till then I have little prospect of seeing my Children and friends in England and a spanish warr we are told is unavoidable we are pretty quiet here just now but ’tis much feard it will continue no longer than the winter we never was so taxd in our lives but what is our taxes to yours however we are a young Colony and our Seas does not throw up sands of gold as surely the British does to enable you to bear such prodigious Expences.”

AMBUSKE: But those sands no longer glittered as they once had, and they threatened to bury the British public in a sea of debt.

AMBUSKE: Like William Pitt, the Duke of Newcastle, the actual prime minister, and the man who kept the money flowing from British lenders into the treasury, wanted to keep subsidizing Britain’s European allies, even as he grew increasingly concerned about mounting debts. His persistence cost him his own place in the cabinet. George III accepted Newcastle’s resignation in May 1762.

AMBUSKE: Pitt and Newcastle’s resignations from the cabinet paved the way for Lord Bute to become the first Scottish-born prime minister of Great Britain.

AMBUSKE: By 1762, the British had conquered a stunning number of territories. These included the French colonies of New France in North America and the Caribbean islands of Martinique, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Saint Lucia, Grenada, Tobago, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

AMBUSKE: In India, the British East India Company captured several French trading posts. In 1762, after the Spanish entered the war, the British launched an invasion force from India that captured Manila in the Philippines. It had been ruled by Spain since the 1570s. Spain’s entry into the war cost it Havana, Cuba in the same year.

AMBUSKE: In West Africa, British forces took the French colony of Senegal and the lucrative slave-trading forts of Saint Louis and Gorée. The Royal Navy had made it possible for Britannia to rule the waves, and strengthen the empire’s position in the transatlantic slave trade.

AMBUSKE: If Pitt and his supporters had had their way, Britain would have kept them all. But if the last 60 years had taught the British anything, it’s that peace was fleeting, and that the next war was always on the horizon.

AMBUSKE: Bute, the king, and their allies wanted to avoid giving the French and the Spanish excuses to rearm quickly, and challenge British power. And if North America had never really mattered much in the European wars of the past, events since 1754 had made it clear, that was no longer the case. For Bute and George III, staving off the next war as long as possible, and securing the future of North America, required the victors in war, to be generous in peace.

AMBUSKE: Among the many preliminary articles of peace, Bute agreed to return Guadeloupe, Saint Lucia, and Martinique to the French. In exchange, the British gained control over forts and territories in India occupied by the French since 1749. The French were also given the right to fish the Grand Banks off Newfoundland, and dry their catch on two small islands nearby. These fish would feed Catholics in Europe and enslaved people in the Caribbean.

AMBUSKE: The British returned Manila and Havana to the Spanish. In exchange, British loggers retained the right to cut wood on the Honduras coast.

AMBUSKE: In December 1762, during debates in Parliament over the proposed treaty, William Pitt and others complained loudly that Bute had conceded far too much to Britain’s French and Spanish rivals. But the government’s supporters reminded its detractors what the war had really been about:

PARLIAMENT MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT (NICHOLAS COLE): “The original object of the war was the security of our colonies upon the continent.”

PARLIAMENT MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT (NICHOLAS COLE): “Experience has shewn us that while France possess any single place in America, from whence she may molest our settlements, they can never enjoy any repose, and of course, that we are never secure from being plunged again into those calamities, from which we have at length, and with soe much difficulty, happily emerged. To remove France from our neighborhood in America, or to contract her power within the narrowest limits possible, is therefore the most capital advantage we can obtain, and is worth purchasing by almost any concession.”

AMBUSKE: Max Edelson explains how the British resolved the North America question in the Treaty of Paris, signed on February 10, 1763.

MAX EDELSON: They did so by claiming all of the territory north America between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mississippi. The colony of New France, which had been a French stronghold for decades, was relinquished and it became the British province of Quebec, Spanish Florida, which had been the longest settled European place in North America became the new British colonies of East and West Florida. So Britain now stood as the only colonial power in eastern North America at the Treaty of Paris in 1763.

AMBUSKE: The lines being drawn on a new map of North America by diplomats in Paris, had real world consequences for the European settlers in the colony formerly known as New France. Christian Ayne Crouch, Dean of Graduate Studies and associate professor of history and American and Indigenous Studies at Bard College, tells us more about what the end of the war in North America and the treaty of peace meant for the habitants, the colonists of New France.

CHRISTIAN AYNE CROUCH: It, I think, runs counter to our understanding of what this could be like.

CROUCH: For the people who are not in the Laurentian Valley, it is not the disaster that we would imagine it to be, because much of the fighting takes place much closer to the coast, it doesn't change their day to day farming it for those who are voyagers, or merchants who circulate in the continental interior, it doesn't change their relationships with native peoples that doesn't change French presents at these forts and other places. So it's not the dramatic event that we imagined it to be. And the terms by which the colony is ceded, or that it capitulates with are actually quite generous to the habitants, and ultimately are codified after the Treaty of Paris in 1763. French Canadians still get to serve in local government. The right to Catholic worship is protected. They continue to use French as the primary language. I would argue that in fact, the terms for the habitants themselves, not the elites but for just the average residents are favorable enough that when the American Revolution rolls around, they're not so interested in joining the colonists, because why would they give up give up these privileges that they have within the British Empire?

AMBUSKE: For French Canadian elites, however, the end of the war was far more costly.

CROUCH: I have to give Voltaire credit for coming up with the best line that wrote off a continent of all time, which is Voltaire, at the end of the Seven Years War basically said, Whoa, Canada was a few meters of snow, why did we need it?

CROUCH: For the elites, though, it's devastating, because with the terms of capitulation, and the dial of honor of war means is that they can't serve any longer, they have to give up arms. And many of them initially go back to France to try and put their lives back together. And what they discover when they go is that they are maybe a national embarrassment is too strong a word. But it is, It is an uncomfortable situation where they feel grossly misunderstood and deeply under appreciated for what they perceive as 150 years of sacrifice on the part of their families to defend the contours of the king's honor.

AMBUSKE: The French government subjected several of New France’s civilian elite to an inquiry for failing to defend the king’s honor in the colony.

CROUCH: L'affaire du Canada which is a two year trial, ostensibly an investigation into corruption on the part of the government of New France, and malfeasance in regards to the use of the king's funds largely for the purchase of the kinds of materials that fueled diplomacy and exchange and reciprocity with indigenous partners. The Royal prosecutors are not wrong that several individuals made fortunes out of this. But isn't that the whole point of the colonial experiment is that you gotta go there to get some money somehow. It is cast, though, as a way of atoning for the loss of the colony, that this is very much a group of self-interested individuals who put commerce above honor.

AMBUSKE: For a time, Governor Vaudreuil, the last governor of New France, was imprisoned in the Bastille.

CROUCH: Now incarcerated in air quotes, because he is also allowed to bring an enslaved manservant to tend to his needs and receives lavender soaked handkerchiefs from his ailing spouse, they write each other these devoted love letters to the point that they the person overseeing the Bastille prison, who's a really tough character, finally writes to them and says “Your love letters are just unseemly, you should not be speaking to each other this way. This is just too much emotion.”

CROUCH: But it is a really traumatic event for the people who are caught up in this trial, because it calls into question what they understood as loyal service that had never they had never been criticized for this before.

AMBUSKE: For other elites and officers who emigrated to France, and who were not put on trial, a royal decree by King Louis XV constrained their choices and presented them with an uncertain future.

CROUCH: The Ordonnance of 1762, says that all of these elites, elite officers and their families who have come back have to relocate to this one landlocked province. or they will lose their pensions from the King. That can be read in many different ways. The leading Minister of Louis XV’s government at that point has a major estate there. It's in proximity to Versailles. So there are a lot of ways in which you could see this as a mark of favor. But it is landlocked for a colony that made its life through Atlantic trade, among other things. Being in proximity can also be code for being surveilled all the time. And these individuals are being forced to move there under duress, under threat of increased financial disaster.

CROUCH: More than 60% of them leave within 10 years of coming back to France. And yes, they go back to Canada. Some go to other places. But most of them go back to North America because they, it's clear, they just don't feel a sense of respect for the service that they had given as patriots as citizens as loyal subjects to the king.

AMBUSKE: In 1755, the Virginian John Mitchell had published A Map of the British and French Dominions in North America. That map depicted British territorial claims extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts. It envisioned a world in which the British controlled the Ohio Country, where the war had begun, and invited viewers to imagine a bright future with endless possibilities.

AMBUSKE: Now, with the war over and peace at hand, the British and British Americans faced the challenge of a new geographic reality, and of governing a much more complicated empire. 

PATRICK GRIFFIN: Fundamentally, the shape of the Empire was changed dramatically, because of the victory in the Seven Years War. And then, with the Treaty of Paris in 1763.

GRIFFIN: My name is Patrick Griffin I’m the Madden Henebry professor at the University of Notre Dame.

GRIFFIN: What it did is it kind of amplified the size of empire beyond what anybody could have possibly have imagined. And that's the other thing, what people could have possibly imagined. So all of a sudden, it becomes a dramatically bigger empire. Now, the British are kind of the Overlords of one of the greatest territorial empires that the world had ever seen. And so that's only when we think about in terms of the Atlantic side of things, but also they have greater hold on parts of India. So it's a global concern, at the same time.

GRIFFIN: The other thing is, is the demographic change, all of a sudden, now they have to deal with an extraordinarily diverse cast of characters, when it comes to the human beings that they're dealing with. And so just the very simplest terms they inherit now, all of these Catholics who had been subjects of the French in Quebec, how do you deal with them? Do you kind of make them second class citizens? Because of course, Catholics back in Britain itself, were second class citizens at the time, right? They're not subjects with full rights. How do you manage that in a place like Quebec? And going down to the Caribbean, you've just inherited a new island, Grenada, and that is filled to with Catholics as well? How do you manage that and the Caribbean now matters more than almost any other place in the world because it is this sort of like, money generating machine because of what sugar means, and what the slave trade means that the Caribbean is so vitally important to the fortunes of empire.

AMBUSKE: The Treaty of Paris of 1763 offered some guidance on the treatment of Catholics in Canada and Grenada. The British agreed to protect the right of Catholic worship in the conquered colonies. If they disliked their new rulers, French settlers were given eighteen months to sell their property to British subjects and emigrate out of the colonies.

AMBUSKE: As the French adjusted to the new postwar reality, the British moved ahead with planning for the future, something that proved both exhilarating and unnerving.

GRIFFIN: When the British win this war, and when they win this empire with this new shape, and with these new pupils, this is for them a particular moment that they hadn't anticipated. And as they put it, it is a moment of extraordinary euphoria, defeating the French defeating what they regarded as the AntiChrist, but defeating also your greatest rival, you know, and winning this much was really quite amazing as far as they were concerned. But here's the issue with the anxiety to, is you have no blueprints for this? So how do you kind of think about, oh, what are we going to do with all of these people and these different kinds of people? How are we going to manage this space? And on top of it, we're sort of broke, the war is cost us all kinds of money. And you have, huh, boy, well, this is kind of great. We have all of this territory of all these people, we have to manage this, we have to figure all of this out, but we don't have much money in order to do it. And we have a hell of a lot of debt, that we're now we're going to have to manage in a way that we haven't had before. And so they're trying to figure out well, okay, all the space all these people, how do we how do we kind of make sense of this? How do we manage it? And so it is this very much a Janus faced moment, because it's so exciting because you have no blueprints, but at the same time, it's so terrifying because you have no blueprints as well.

AMBUSKE: For the British, the post-war era offered them the chance to forge British America and the newly acquired colonies into the kind of empire we think of when we hear the word “empire.”  

GRIFFIN: If you think about the Empire before, like Britain did have an empire, but it didn't really function, like what we would consider to be an empire. You know, when we think about an empire, you think of a place, its territorial, its centralized, all this sort of stuff. It was really, I think, the way that I put it is it was kind of a series of arrangements and different kinds of arrangements. And if anything, it was really, I think, a ramshackle kind of affair.

 AMBUSKE: As Max Edelson explains:

EDELSON: British America was founded by autonomous groups that possess charters from the crown to settle and develop colonies. And they did so for much of the 17th century, on their own at their own risk with the support of the crown, but not many of the resources of the state. Once these independent bodies like the Virginia Company, the Lord's proprietors of Carolina had established their colonies and they became valuable to the state, the state looks for ways across the late 17th and early 18th century to have a greater impact on governing these places, because they were so valuable to the British economy and Britain's strategic position in the world.

AMBUSKE: Think of charter colonies like Massachusetts Bay and Connecticut, which were founded with corporate charters; royal colonies like Virginia and Bermuda, which were governed by the crown, and proprietary colonies like Pennsylvania and Maryland, which were owned by private individuals or families, like the Penn and Baltimore families.

AMBUSKE: All were British colonies, all of the inhabitants were subjects of the British king, but each of the provinces had different interests that made it difficult for them, or the empire, to find common ground.

GRIFFIN: And this speaks to the ramshackle way that they had developed over the course of the 17th century, nothing unusual about it. But now as rivalry is kicking up on the European continent, as the British find themselves more often than not at war with other powers, particularly France. At the time, they're trying to look to, if you will, they're trying to look for a comparative advantage. And it's clear as day we have these colonies. This is our comparative advantage, how do we harness them? And I think that's what successive ministries are trying to figure out.

AMBUSKE: By the mid-eighteenth century, British politicians like the Earl of Halifax began advocating more forcefully for greater coherence in the empire. From 1748 to 1761, Halifax was president of the Lords Commissioners of Trade and Plantations, more commonly known as the “Board of Trade,” and he longed to make the colonies work more effectively for the common imperial interest.

EDELSON: The Board of Trade was the committee within the British government controlled by the crown that was sort of the oversight body for colonies in America. So the Board of Trade was formally established in 1696. Its establishment is really the beginning of what historians sometimes call the rise of the Imperial state that is, permanent apparatus to gather information, make policy, and communicate with overseas officials about colonial matters. Before the establishment of the Board of Trade, colonization had been a pretty ad hoc affair without any central administration. But in the 18th century, the Board of Trade was at the center of this rising oversight from the British Crown over its Dominions overseas.

AMBUSKE: For Halifax and like-minded thinkers on the Board of Trade and elsewhere, Britain’s empire in North America and the Caribbean had the potential to lessen Great Britain’s dependence on trade with Europe, and keep Britain out of costly wars.

AMBUSKE: But that idealized vision depended on an efficient and united empire.

EDELSON: The Board of Trade, always adopted the perspective that the colonies had been run poorly, that the people who ran the colonies were essentially self interested, they didn't see the Imperial common good, or the interests of the crown or the state as a whole as their interests. And the result of this was a pattern of settlement and development in British America, that seemed to be antithetical to long term peace. There were lots of volatile conflicts between Native Americans and colonists, they seemed out of control, the customs regulations that were supposed to bring revenue from the Empire to the British Treasury, were evaded on the ground by people who wanted to keep all the resources for themselves. So a certain opinion developed at the heart of the British imperial state, and certainly was adopted by the Board of Trade, that British America was in bad need of reform, that it was an unsustainable system, the way it worked now, and oversight from the center needed to be imposed for this part of the empire to be sustained into the future.

EDELSON: And by the time we reached the era of the Seven Years War in the middle of the 18th century, it's clear to Britain that as they've calculated the trade statistics, and the revenue they get from America and the value of American colonies and trades to the British economy, they cannot do without America, in order to be prosperous and powerful nation in the world. By one estimate, colonial trades accounted for about a third of the British economy by the second half of the 18th century. And so there was a bit of desperation on the part of Britain after the Seven Years War to get the colonial house in order and to finally impose those reforms that could make the colonies truly dependent on Great Britain and able to serve its interests.

AMBUSKE: One of the officials crunching the numbers and calculating trade statistics in the years before the war was Charles Townshend. The English-born Townshend was a Member of Parliament who had served with Halifax on the Board of Trade in the early 1750s.

GRIFFIN: Charles, he spends a lot of time and understanding and appreciating kind of how complex this empire really is. And so his apprenticeship is when he's working on the Board of Trade, and all kinds of papers are coming across his desk from all different parts of the world with all different kinds of problems. And he spends his time trying to appreciate “Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute, what? What makes all of this tick? How can we make this kind of work better.” And so he has like a privileged position, because of kind of where he is on a board of trade of seeing the big picture. That's what he's able to appreciate. He also realizes how dysfunctional this big picture is.

AMBUSKE: What kinds of reports were crossing his desk?

GRIFFIN: You name it everything you know. It's everything about the slave trade, it's everything about the output of the Caribbean what kind of profits they're going to expect from, petitions from different kinds of merchants that are in North America about kind of problems that they're having at the time, petitions from merchants back in Britain about how trade could be better at the time, things that are coming in from India are also kind of making their way across his desk. So he's seeing The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly, when it comes to Empire.

AMBUSKE: One of the petitions that Townshend likely saw was a November 1752 memorial from a group of Philadelphia merchants. They were protesting an attempt by London merchants to gain an exclusive patent to trade in Labrador. As the petitioners, Benjamin Franklin among them, wrote:

PHILADELPHIA PETITIONERS (JOHN TURNER): “Your Petitioners, therefore, humbly hope that the Patent, applied for, will not be granted; but that they, and all other Your Majestys Subjects, shall be left free, to pursue the said Trade, to their great and common Benefit and Advantage.”

AMBUSKE: While the Philadelphia merchants were successful, their petition was unremarkable. It was typical of the kind of business that Halifax, Townshend, and the Board of Trade handled before the Seven Years’ War.

EDELSON: But at the end of the war, Britain handed the task of planning this new empire to the Board of Trade, to gather its statistics to gather information and reports from experts in the field, and come up with some kind of plan to put the empire on a sounder footing.

AMBUSKE: Lord Bute, the Prime Minister, who had spearheaded the peace negotiations in 1762, led this new endeavor, but the bulk of the work fell to one of his political allies.

EDELSON: One of his handpick favorites was the Earl of Shelburne, a young aristocrat, only 25 years old when he took charge of the Board of Trade during this moment. And the Earl of Shelburne was very enamored with the new writings of scholars of people like Adam Smith, and the thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment. These were political economists who really believed that they could create schemes of social improvement that would make life better for everyone. One of the key attitudes of these political economists was that if you let a well-regulated system of commerce link places together, that would create conditions of peace and mutual satisfaction for people on both sides of the Atlantic, and that included Native Americans as well. So these were idealists and they believe that they could structure economy and society in a way that would solve the problems of empire. So when it was time to make a plan for the new peace after 1763, the Earl of Shelburne led the Board of Trade to draft a master plan to create these new policies and schemes for British America.

AMBUSKE: Shelburne shared this new vision of empire with idealists on both sides of the Atlantic.

EDELSON: There were also some others who I think were important in this initiative. One of them was a man named John Pownall, he was the long serving secretary of the Board of Trade. Now, he wasn't an earl or a nobleman like the commissioners on the board of trade, but he was kind of the senior administrator and anyone who's worked in an academic department knows that all the power really resides with the lead administrative assistant who runs the show. And that was very true of John Pownall now, who also was very idealistic about what the Board of Trade could do to regulate America. His brother was also very involved in this. Thomas Pownall had been the governor of Massachusetts, wrote extensively on how to best administer the colonies. So this group formed a sort of cohort of like-minded idealists who believe that the new ideas of political economy could solve some of the problems of empire that had been so endemic before the Seven Years War.

AMBUSKE: To create a commercial system that led to peace and prosperity for all British subjects, as well as Indigenous peoples, Shelburne, the Pownall brothers, and other like-minded men called for a new approach to colonizing North America.

EDELSON: The essence of this plan was to take control of colonization in new territories so that these new colonies wouldn't have all the liabilities of the old ones. So instead of allowing independent companies or proprietors to settle colonies as they saw fit, Britain thought of plans of social engineering by which lands would only be given to those who could develop them. Rents would be charged and fees would be charged to those who had the most immediately valuable and in places like the new Caribbean colonies of the ceded islands, and the state would invest directly in the development of places like East and West Florida. So those places could be strategically sound and could defend the rest of the Empire.

AMBUSKE: In the early years of the Seven Years’ War, the British government had despaired at the colonies’ lack of unity and their seeming indifference to the imperial common good in the face of the French and Indigenous threat.

AMBUSKE: To counteract apparent colonial apathy, the government gave commanders-in-chief viceroy-like powers, and it began handling Indigenous relationships through the creation of the Indian Department. It did so in the belief that the disunited colonies were in need of greater imperial management. Of course, some of those ideas worked…better than others.

AMBUSKE: From the British perspective, the post-war world was a chance to reimagine British America, and remediate its flaws.

AMBUSKE: In 1763, British subjects could look at Robert Sayer’s, A New Map of North America [An Accurate Map of North America], published in London, for a glimpse of what this new world would look like. Based on the work of French cartographers, Sayer’s map looked remarkably different from the map that John Mitchell had published eight years earlier.

 AMBUSKE: The boundaries of colonies like Virginia no longer raced across the continent to the Pacific; they now stopped at the Mississippi River, according to the terms of the Treaty of Paris. The name “New France” remained on the map, for now, just above the word “Canada,” the name that would soon take its place. The pink shading around its borders, and those of the other colonies on the mainland and the Caribbean, made plain what was British, and what was not.

AMBUSKE: The words “Six Nations Iroquois,” were prominently featured on Mitchell’s map. They visualized the Haudenonsaunee’s claim to an expansive dominion that stretched from eastern New York to the Ohio Country. But they were hardly visible on Sayer’s print, perhaps leaving European viewers to wonder what had become of the Six Nations’ power.

AMBUSKE: What British officials could see in Sayer’s map was a blueprint for the future.

AMBUSKE: The British would seek to directly manage the process of settling the newly-acquired colonies in North America and the Caribbean. The government would also attempt to limit settlement in the older colonies in hopes of keeping the peace with Indigenous nations. They wanted to create a commercial system that united the empire, one that encouraged settlers to face east toward the mother country, and a prosperous future. These principles would later be embodied in George III’s Royal Proclamation of October 7, 1763.  

EDELSON: The most important point, I think, for American colonists was that not only were they sort of cut out of the process of settling the new colonies, this was now going to be done from London, that the imperial officials were deeply concerned about the interior expansion of the mainland colonies in North America, and the kind of violence this provoked with Native Americans as land speculators, and settlers encroached on native lands. So they wanted to regulate the relationships between Native nations and the British Empire so that colonists weren't controlling that, or governors sort of in the pockets of the colonists weren't controlling this, but rather British officials were controlling this process. They very much wanted to limit settlement in the seaboard colonies to the Atlantic coast, in part to avoid Indian Wars, but in part to keep a good eye on these colonists who had a habit of evading customs duties, and doing things their own way.

AMBUSKE: The British government’s plan for managing this new empire was very complicated and yet, on the surface, very simple: The British would oversee the settlement of the new colonies in Canada, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean, and discourage settlers in the older colonies from moving west, into places like the Ohio Country, where they were likely to come into conflict with Indigenous peoples.

AMBUSKE: We can begin to make sense of what the British hoped to accomplish by exploring the West Florida world that Scottish emigrant Isabella Chyrstie and her husband, naval veteran James Bruce, would soon come to know.

EDELSON: When France controlled Canada, the colony of New France was a sprawling expensive province that extended far from the coast into the interior. The same was true for Spanish Florida, which really, according to the Spanish at least extended to the entirety of the southeast. As part of Britain's reform initiative, they wanted to make these colonies more governable and compact.

AMBUSKE: The new map of the North American southeast and the Gulf Coast reflected strategic decisions made by British, French, and Spanish negotiators in Europe.

AMBUSKE: Here’s Kathleen DuVal, a professor of history at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill to explain:

KATHLEEN DUVAL: By the era of the American Revolution, the Gulf Coast is divided between the Spanish and the British. So after the Seven Years War, the French and Indian War, the French evacuated, they've lost the war, and then they gave up their colony of Louisiana. And so the western half of what had been French, Louisiana, basically what's now the state of Louisiana, and other parts to the west and north that went to Spain. So that became Spanish territory, east of the Mississippi River. what's now Alabama and Mississippi, that became part of the British Empire as a result of the Seven Years War.

AMBUSKE: Although the French had ceded the colony of Louisiana to the British in 1763, this only accounted for the territory east of the Mississippi River. The French had quietly given the territory west of the river to the Spanish a year earlier. Spain gained control of the critical port town of New Orleans, with British subjects given the right to navigate down the Mississippi River.

AMBUSKE: What did these changes mean for people on the ground?

DUVAL: These sweeping changes happen on maps in treaties, most of which take place in Europe, by people who have actually never been in the Americas. And so what that changes is a few posts, so say a Pensacola, the British come to take it over from the Spanish officers who had held it and British officers come in one official and maybe 10 soldiers, right, they come and they take over for the same number of Spanish soldiers who had been stationed there and they take down one flag and put up another one. But for the people who live there, they know it's a momentous change. That case, it's Spanish speakers who are going to have to get used to an English speaking government. In New Orleans, it's French speakers who will have to get used to a Spanish speaking government. So there are some changes people worry about if they'll retain their property, if they will lose or gain status. In most cases, local colonials actually have a great advantage when these newcomers come in because they know the land they know the local native peoples and then they actually have in these cases a really a lot that can offer these new officials who come in.

DUVAL: Now actual, Spanish, French before them and British settlements are very clustered on the Gulf itself, and right around the Mississippi River and a few posts and so most people who live there actually Native American and so there are a number of strong Native American nations in that region. The Choctaws, the Creeks or Muskogee's, the Chickasaw.

DUVAL: For Native nations who are bordering all of these posts. Similarly, they realize something has changed, they're going to have to get a new interpreter for a new language, they will have to cultivate new sorts of trading relationships, diplomatic relationships with people, either that they hadn't had them with before, or in some cases who were at a different post just because they're moving around post so the Spanish commit commander at Pensacola might end up at now the Spanish post west of the Mississippi, but they had to sort of reestablish relationships. In some cases, the local Native people actually exaggerate how much tribute to how what good prices, the previous Empire gave them and insist on getting that from the new officials who come in.

AMBUSKE: As the British assumed control over the Gulf South, they made a number of decisions to make the region more manageable, and make it work for the common imperial good.

AMBUSKE: Here’s Max Edelson:

EDELSON: Florida was divided into two provinces. West Florida, was along the Gulf Coast from a New Orleans, which became a Spanish stronghold, and the peninsula of Florida which became the colony of East Florida. These were separately governed colonies. Most of the settlement and development that happened in West Florida happened close to the Mississippi River and around the ports of Pensacola and Mobile. In East Florida, most of the development was happening around St. Augustine, especially along the St. Johns River, where most of the plantation settlement was developed. Britons thought that these two colonies would make ideal new plantation colonies. They envisioned a form of plantation development that would certainly depend on importing enslaved Africans to be laborers. They looked at the commodities that plantation colonies in the British Empire already produced like rice, sugar, indigo, and imagine new commodities that these new colonies can also grow. It was an attempt to develop a profitable new branch of Britain's plantation society.

AMBUSKE: The two Floridas had much in common with plantation colonies like South Carolina, where Eliza Lucas Pinckney experimented with indigo and managed her enslaved laborers. They also shared features with the Caribbean colonies, where the British had great expectations of building profitable plantation societies.

EDELSON: Nowhere was that more true than in the new Caribbean islands that Britain received at the Treaty of Paris. These are called the ceded islands because they were ceded by France to Britain during the Treaty of Paris.

EDELSON: Dominica, Grenada, St. Vincent and Tobago were the four ceded islands. And these were places that were seen as incredibly valuable for plantation development because British planters could import enslaved Africans and grow the most profitable commodity in the Atlantic world, their sugar. There were problems to this vision.

EDELSON: It really didn't take the native populations of some of these islands into account. The island of St. Vincent had a very sizable indigenous population. One part of this group was a group that the British called the Black caribou, and it's suspected that the ancestors of these black Caribs were runaway slaves from other plantation colonies and carob Islanders who had lived there before colonization, the British assumed that they could just take over those carob lands and turn them into sugar plantations.

EDELSON: Grenada became, in the span of a dozen years, the second most productive and profitable colony in the British Empire by some measures, just behind Jamaica, in terms of its sugar production. And that involves the arrival of as many as 10,000 or 15,000, enslaved Africans to work new sugar plantations. So from a British imperial perspective, this was a grand success, it showed their ability to implant a new colony. Of course, from our perspective, it was a black mark against the British Empire for doubling down on plantation slavery at a moment when slavery was beginning to receive criticism elsewhere.

AMBUSKE: But land was finite in the Caribbean. For all the riches a white planter might stand to make on the islands, they required huge financial investments in land and enslaved people. Planters in the Caribbean were more likely to be absentee landlords living in London or Glasgow, who left the management of their sugar plantations and their enslaved people to ambitious white overseers.

AMBUSKE: For white settlers, the Florida colonies offered the appearance of the best of both colonial worlds - plenty of land, the possibility of building new lives there, and the potential for acquiring some measure of wealth and power.

DUVAL: West and East Florida both promised land at a time when it's really quite difficult to get land in the settled British colonies. If you live in Massachusetts, say and you have several sons, it's there, the land has been carved up already. There's not land to pass on to all of them.

AMBUSKE: East and West Florida were attractive to British emigrants like Isabella Chyristie and James Bruce, partly because Bruce received a land grant in West Florida as a reward for his service in the Seven Years’ War. It was also a place where they might elevate their social and economic standing in ways they could not back home.

DUVAL: West Florida is designed by the British to be a plantation colony. So on this land that the Bruces acquire, they start growing indigo, and other crops, they buy enslaved people to work on those plantations. And so they really know not that much about them and their social circumstances or their economic circumstances before the Seven Years War, but it's a pretty good guess that they greatly improve their social prominence and their economic status and with the cost of course, having to be in Pensacola, this tiny post in the middle of nowhere.

AMBUSKE: For Bruce, who became a member of the provincial council and collector of customs, two very influential positions in the young colony, and a prominent owner of land and people, settling in Pensacola certainly seemed to work in his favor.

AMBUSKE: It’s more difficult to say how Chrystie felt about her new life. If her letters survive, they remain lost. And in West Florida, she became Isabella Bruce, or Mrs. Bruce.

AMBUSKE: Kathleen DuVal notes the challenges of researching eighteenth-century women like Isabella Chrystie.

DUVAL: One of the frustrations about doing early modern women's history is that's because in the English speaking world, women change their names when they marry. They can be hard to trace before their marriage and so Isabella Christie Bruce that is the person who's name I can find who seems the right age who married a James Bruce. But I'm not entirely sure that that's her until the marriage after that, I know it's the same person I’m talking about.

AMBUSKE: West Florida was a new colony, in an expansive new empire, one that British politicians, political economists, and idealists hoped would secure Great Britain’s independence from Europe, and the dreadful wars of the past.   

AMBUSKE: Ironically, if the couple had chosen to live in Scotland, Mrs. Bruce of West Florida, might have been easier to trace. In the eighteenth century, it was not uncommon for married Scottish women to keep their maiden names.

AMBUSKE: And, in Scotland, the now Mrs. Bruce might have had greater control over her own property, including land. Scotland and England might have been united as one nation, but then as now, they were governed by different legal traditions. Scotland’s laws, based on a foundation of ancient Roman civil law, afforded women more property rights than the laws of England.

AMBUSKE: If West Florida had still been in Spanish hands by the time of Isabella Bruce’s arrival in 1769, it would have been governed by the same legal tradition as in Scotland. She might have enjoyed greater control over her property. 

AMBUSKE: But West Florida, like England, like virtually all British American provinces, was a colony governed by common law. 

AMBUSKE: The widowed South Carolinan Eliza Lucas Pinckney enjoyed greater freedom to run her rice and indigo plantations as she saw fit because her husband was no more.

AMBUSKE: But in West Florida, a married woman like Mrs. Isabella Bruce enjoyed no such rights. Under the common law, she was legally dead, in a state of dependence on her husband, with no control over her own property.

AMBUSKE: And yet, as the Bruces set out to build their new lives together, with forced migrants like the enslaved West Africans they would call “Glasgow,” “Aberdeen,” and “Caithness,” whose names reminded them of home, their presence would have reminded Mrs. Bruce that even the legally dead have immense power.


AMBUSKE: In November 1764, Governor George Johnstone boasted that his new colony of West Florida “bids fair to be the Emporium, as well as the most pleasant part of the new world.”

AMBUSKE: Like so many other officers and agents of the British Empire in the late eighteenth century, Johnstone was a Scot, an origin he shared with Sir James Grant of Ballindalloch, the governor of East Florida.

AMBUSKE: Together, the two men had a difficult task: under orders from George III and the Board of Trade, Johnstone and Grant had to convince British and British Americans that the new colonies under their care were worth the investment and worth the risk.

AMBUSKE: In a letter published on the front page of the Georgia Gazette in January 1765, Johnstone enticed potential settlers with rich soils and plentiful water capable of producing wine, oil, silk, tobacco, rice, and indigo, along with any number of fruits grown in southern climates.

AMBUSKE: The province’s location made it ideal, the governor said, for trading with colonies in the Caribbean, for tapping into commerce floating down the Mississippi River from the North American interior, and for trading with Indigenous peoples. Left unsaid, but no doubt understood, was that enslaved men, women, and children would work these lands.

AMBUSKE: Clearly anticipating critics who would claim that West Florida was too hot, too prone to hurricanes, and too much a den of disease, Johnstone closed with:

GEORGE JOHNSTONE (NORMAN RODGER): “But what above all recommends West-Florida, and particularly that part of it which lies round Pensacola, is the healthiness of the climate; no country perhaps on the face of the earth possesses so pure, serene, and temperate a sky, visited with the agreeable vicissitudes of seasons, but none of them in extreme: the heat of summer is moderated by never failing breezes, which blow in the morning from the land, and from the sea after the sun is up; and the winter is considerably more pure and enlivening than in any other latitude.”

GEORGE JOHNSTONE (NORMAN RODGER): “It is needless to enumerate the advantages that must arise to the colony from this circumstance; our unfortunate countrymen in the West-Indies, worn down by the sultry heat of that climate, will likewise learn in time how much more easy it is for them to come in a few days sail to Pensacola, to relieve their broken constitutions, than undertake a tedious and expensive voyage to Europe, through storms and variable winds.”

AMBUSKE: Arguments such as these attracted British settlers like Isabella Chrystie and James Bruce to West Florida in the years after the Seven Years War.

AMBUSKE: West Florida, the Gulf coast, and the Caribbean were major parts of Great Britain’s new vision of empire beginning in 1763. Whether they could bring about the kind of prosperity its architects hoped they would, remained to be seen.

AMBUSKE: Whether this new empire would benefit the common, imperial good, only time would tell.

AMBUSKE: And whether it could all be made profitable in ways that would allow Great Britain to pay down £133 million in national debt, money it had borrowed to win this new empire, remained, in many ways, the most pressing and the most dangerous of questions.

AMBUSKE: Thanks for listening to Worlds Turned Upside Down. Worlds is a production of R2 Studios, part of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. Head to for a complete transcript of today’s episode and suggestions for further reading.

AMBUSKE:  I’m your host, Jim Ambuske.

AMBUSKE: Worlds is researched and written by me, with additional research, writing, and script editing by Jeanette Patrick.

AMBUSKE:  Our lead audio editor is Curt Dahl of CD Squared.

AMBUSKE:  Rachel Birch and Amber Pelham are our graduate assistants.

AMBUSKE: Our thanks to Fred Anderson, Christian Ayne Crouch, Max Edelson, Kathleen DuVal, Patrick Griffin, and Jon Kukla for sharing their expertise with us in this episode.

AMBUSKE: Special thanks to our voice actors, Norman Roger, Anne Fertig, Nicholas Cole, and John Turner.

AMBUSKE: Special thanks also to Deepthi Murali and Hayley Madl.

AMBUSKE: Subscribe to Worlds on your favorite podcast app. Thanks, and we’ll see you next time.












Fred Anderson, Ph.D. Profile Photo

Fred Anderson, Ph.D.

Professor of History Emeritus | University of Colorado-Boulder

Fred Anderson received his B.A. with Highest Distinction from Colorado State University in 1971 and his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1981. He taught at Harvard and at the University of Colorado, Boulder. His publications include Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766 (2000) and, with Andrew Cayton, The Dominion of War: Empire and Liberty in North America,1500-2000 (2005).

Kathleen DuVal, Ph.D.

Kathleen DuVal earned her BA at Stanford and her Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis, and held a postdoctoral fellowship at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies before joining the History Department at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She is the author of Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution (Random House, 2015) and The Native Ground: Indians and Colonists in the Heart of the Continent (Penn Press, 2006) and co-author of Give Me Liberty: An American History (7th ed., Norton, 2022) and Interpreting a Continent: Voices from Colonial America (Rowman and Littlefield, 2009). She is currently completing a book on Native North America from the eleventh to nineteenth centuries with the help of a Guggenheim Fellowship.

S. Max Edelson, Ph.D. Profile Photo

S. Max Edelson, Ph.D.

Professor of History | University of Virginia

S. Max Edelson teaches the history of early America, digital humanities, and the history of cartography at the University of Virginia. He received his PhD from Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of Plantation Enterprise in Colonial South Carolina and The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America before Independence. His current research explores mapping and empire in early English America.

Patrick Griffin, Ph.D. Profile Photo

Patrick Griffin, Ph.D.

Madden-Hennebry Family Professor of History | University of Notre Dame

I am a professor of history at Notre Dame. Before that I taught at the University of Virginia. I have earned degrees from Notre Dame, Columbia, Northwestern, and Oxford. I have published five solo-authored books and edited a few more. Last year, I was Harmsworth Professor of American History at Oxford. This year I was admitted as an honorary member of the Royal Irish Academy.

Jon Kukla, Ph.D. Profile Photo

Jon Kukla, Ph.D.

Historian and Author

After completing my PhD residence in the 1970s my day jobs involved executive leadership in libraries, publishing, archives, and museums - but after defending my dissertation in 1980 I continued to publish scholarship and reviews in the major history journals like my contemporaries in degree-granting institutions.

I've been interested in Early American and British history since college. I'm passionate about seeing things fresh from extensive research in primary sources - as a result many of my articles and books have, as they say, broken new ground.

Christian Ayne Crouch, Ph.D. Profile Photo

Christian Ayne Crouch, Ph.D.

Dean of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor of History and American and Indigenous Studies | Bard College

Christian Ayne Crouch is Dean of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor of History and American and Indigenous Studies at Bard College. She is the author of the award-winning Nobility Lost: French and Canadian Martial Cultures, Indians, and the End of New France (Cornell 2014). Her scholarship has considered topics in Atlantic military culture, French imperial legacies, intersection in Native and African-American history. Her current book project, "Queen Victoria's Captive: A Story of Ambition, Empire, and a Stolen Ethiopian Prince," explores the human and material consequences of the 1868 Mandala Campaign in Ethiopia in Atlantic context.

Norman Rodger

Norman Rodger started as a History graduate, but after over twenty years playing in bands, working in adventure playgrounds, managing training programs for the long-term unemployed, working in multimedia, and more, playing in bands. Rodger found employment that made direct use of his degree. After over twenty years of working, with more twists and turns for the University of Edinburgh Library, he's about to hang up his boots and retire. We'll see what happens next!

Spencer McBride, Ph.D. Profile Photo

Spencer McBride, Ph.D.

Associate Managing Historian | The Joseph Smith Papers

Associate Managing Historian, The Joseph Smith Papers

Nicholas Cole, Ph.D. Profile Photo

Nicholas Cole, Ph.D.


Nicholas Cole is a Senior Research Fellow at and the Academic Director of Pembroke College, University of Oxford. He is the director of the Quill Project -- an interdisciplinary research project studying the writing of America's constitutional texts.

John Turner, Ph.D. Profile Photo

John Turner, Ph.D.

Professor of Religious Studies and History, George Mason University

John G. Turner is professor of religious studies and history at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. He is the author of several books about the role of religion in U.S. history, including Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet (Harvard, 2012) and They Knew They Were Pilgrims (Yale, 2020). He is currently writing a biography of Joseph Smith, Jr.

Anne Fertig, Ph.D. Profile Photo

Anne Fertig, Ph.D.

Anne Fertig is the Digital Projects Editor at the Center for Digital History at the George Washington Presidential Library and the lead producer of the George Washington Podcast Network. A trained literary and book historian, Dr. Fertig completed her Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2022. In addition to her work at the George Washington Podcast Network, she is the founder and former co-director of Jane Austen & Co.