The Transformation of the North Atlantic World, 1492-1763: An Introduction

The Transformation of the North Atlantic World, 1492-1763: An Introduction

The Transformation of the North Atlantic World, 1492-1763: An Introduction

The Transformation of the North Atlantic World, 1492-1763: An Introduction


Between Columbus' first expedition in 1492 and the Peace of Paris in 1763, West Europeans created empires of trade and settlement that re-made the social, economic, and political environments not only of their own peoples, but also those of the other societies around the North Atlantic. This study invites readers new to early modern Atlantic Studies to consider from some possible explanations for these extraordinary transformations of the lives of millions of people, free and unfree, and of the political powers of societies that previously had been separated by rather than linked by the ocean. In particular, Seymour invites readers to ponder how the first century of, in effect, Iberian monopoly, became displaced by an Anglophone hegemony. This volume is constructed around the questions to be addressed in any consideration of the early modern North Atlantic; reflections upon the factors contributing to the processes--technical, technological, economic, and social; the availability of alternatives to Atlantic empires; possible environmental factors; then a brief survey of interpretative themes in the period, divided into distinct chronological phases. In conclusion, the author suggests that, because the eventual "triumph" of an Anglophone Atlantic may not be regarded as inevitable, we should be conscious in the present of the unpredictability of the historical experience.


…I went ashore in a boat with armed men, taking Martín Alonso Pinzón
and his brother Vicente Yáñez, captain of the Niña. I took the royal standard,
and the captains each took a banner with the Green Cross which each of my
ships carries as a device, with the letters F and Y, surmounted by a crown,
at each end of the cross.

…[I]n the presence of them all I was taking possession of this island for
their Lord and Lady the King and Queen,…

When, in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people
to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and
to assume, among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to
which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect
to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes
which impel them to the separation.

Less than three hundred years separate the events commemorated in these words, which exemplify the transformation in the early modern period of the relationships amongst the societies inhabiting the Atlantic littoral between 10°S and 60°N. in the years between an underresourced, largely speculative venture sponsored almost on a whim by a minor monarch on the edge of Europe—Queen Isabel of Castilla—and the proclamation of a new republic self-consciously asserting universal and eternal principles of representative government—the United States—there lies a literal reorientation of the early modern European world from its classical Mediterranean-Indian Ocean axis, to the “Atlantic Rim.” the North Atlantic was not, of course, the only region of the globe to experience new interactions between societies during this period, and in particular there . . .

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