Military Governors and Imperial Frontiers c. 1600-1800: A Study of Scotland and Empires

By A. Mackillop; Steve Murdoch | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE
ROBERT MELVILLE AND THE FRONTIERS OF EMPIRE
IN THE BRITISH WEST INDIES, 1763–17711
Douglas Hamilton

In 1763, after the end of the Seven Years War, Britain acquired new territory in the West Indies. The Caribbean islands of Dominica, Grenada, St. Vincent and Tobago, occupied by British forces during the war, were formally transferred to the British Empire after their capture from French control. Overall military and civilian command of these Ceded Islands was handed to General Robert Melville, a post he retained, including a long furlough in London, until 1771.2 The appointment of a Scot to such an important colonial position was far from rare in this period. The three other new governorships established in the British Atlantic world in 1763—in East Florida, West Florida and Quebec—were all filled by Scots. As these appointments were made in London, it is evident that Scots had succeeded, at the very least, in becoming well connected in the metropolitan elite.

In recent years, there has been a profusion of scholarship that, to a greater or lesser extent, has highlighted the importance of 'concentric identities' in the emergence of eighteenth century British consciousness.3 There was no inherent contradiction between being aware

____________________
1
I am grateful to the editors and to Dr. Robert Blyth of the National Maritime Museum, London and Kariann Yokota of Yale University for their comments on a draft of this chapter.
2
The islands of Dominica, Grenada, St. Vincent and Tobago form part of the Windward archipelago in the Caribbean. During Melville's term as Governor, they were variously known as the Neutral Islands, the Southern Charibee Islands and the Ceded Islands. Here, for the sake of simplicity, they are referred to as the Ceded Islands.
3
See, for example, C.A. Bayly, Imperial Meridian: The British Empire and the World, 1780–1830 (London and New York: 1989), 15; L. Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707–1837 (London: 1992); C. Kidd, 'North Britishness and the Nature of EighteenthCentury British Patriotisms', Historical Journal, 39 (1996), 361–382; S.J. Connolly, 'Varieties of Britishness: Ireland, Scotland and Wales in the Hanoverian State' and P.J. Marshall, 'A Nation Defined by Empire, 1755–1776', in A. Grant & K.J. Stringer, eds., Uniting the Kingdom? The Making of British History (London: 1995), 193–207, 208–222.

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