History and Art History
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Empire in the Hold: The British Maritime Cultural Landscape in the Western Great Lakes 1759-1796

Thomas Kurt Knoerl

Major Professor: Randolph Scully, PhD, Department of History and Art History

Committee Members: Rosemarie Zagarri, Christopher Hamner, Bradley Alan Rodgers

Johnson Center, B
November 19, 2012, 02:00 PM to 12:00 PM

Abstract:

This dissertation draws attention to an aspect of the British Empire in the western Great Lakes that has, in the past, gone relatively unnoticed despite its importance to nearly every aspect of the British experience within the region. By looking at the development of the maritime cultural landscape over time, we can see how different cultures developed and utilized the same physical landscape. The British Empire in the western Great Lakes was a maritime empire in which water both facilitated and undermined British attempts to establish their conception of Empire throughout the region. Reshaping the maritime cultural landscape as they did to accommodate large sailing vessels aided the British in their efforts to expand westward but their reliance on their waterborne transport system exposed them to attack at its weakest points.  A schooner could transport greater quantities of goods at faster speeds than a canoe but it required deeper harbors and was equally imprisoned by ice during the long winter months. It also required a substantial support system spread over hundreds of miles in order to function. Studying the British Empire in the western Great Lakes through the prism of the maritime cultural landscape connects the region to the rest of the Empire, one that came to span the globe, a globe that is predominately covered by water.

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