King George III’s American Revolution
In 1783, the Treaty of Paris ended George III’s reign as America’s final king. He presided over the expansion of British America beginning with his ascension to the throne in 1760, only to see it divided through imperial civil war and secession two decades later.
This research seminar course uses George III and a new digital archive of Georgian Papers based in Windsor Castle and King’s College London to explore the king’s critical role in shaping the politics and culture of the American Revolutionary era. We will use him to examine several important aspects of the American Revolution and Early Republic, including the rise and fall of royal authority and culture in the American colonies, the cartographic challenge of mapping British America in the 1760s and 1770s, the art of portraiture in the British Atlantic world, the experiences of people living on the fringes of empire during and after the War for Independence, and enslaved Americans’ pursuit of freedom during the American Revolution and the War of 1812.
During the term, we will read and write as much about George III as we will people living in North America, Great Britain, and the spaces between. We will read on average about 250 pages each week, including books or articles by historians as well as primary sources written or created by contemporary authors like Catharine Macaulay, George III, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine. The majority of the reading will occur early on in the semester so that we can establish a foundation for our research papers. We will also listen to several podcasts featuring historians discussing their craft as we think about how to identify promising research topics, how to ask good questions of our primary sources, and how to form our ideas into persuasive written arguments.
Students will conduct one primary source analysis, write a short book review, make small (but very important) contributions to a digital documentary editing project, and write a 15-20 page final essay on a course topic of interest to them. Along the way we’ll visit a physical archive at UVA to examine rare historical materials and work with the new Georgian Papers digital archive, featuring documents few people have seen since the eighteenth century.
This course fulfills the second writing requirement.