Steve Pincus
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The pivot of empire
Party politics, Spanish America and the Treaty of Utrecht (1713)
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This chapter revisits the famous Treaty of Utrecht, and does so in order to challenge the existing historiography on contemporary political debates about empire. It emphasises the importance of reintroducing political discussions into the history of the British empire, not in the sense of returning to older ideas about an ‘official mind’ but rather in the sense of recognising the existence of real debate about the nature and merits of empire. The chapter argues that debates about the treaty reflected party divisions and contrasting political economies, and a struggle over the future of the empire. Setting out these rival versions provides an opportunity to reflect more broadly on recent trends within scholarship on empire, in the wake of the ‘cultural turn’.

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