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The Internal Enemy Professional Review

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Defying Empire: Professional Review  

The book review that I will be summarizing come from Dr. Simon Middleton from the University of Sheffield. Middleton begins his review by discussing General Braddock’s failure in capturing the French Fort Duquesne and also his defeat at the Battle of Monongahela. He expresses that these events are often cited as a turning point in the European contest for North America leading to what the English called the Seven Years’ War. After explaining the significance, he then begins to incorporate Defying Empire by saying how “Thomas Truxes reminds us in his gripping account of mid-century colonial trade, seaborne threats of invasion and limits on trade were a constant threat in what was one of the leading port towns in the 18th-century Atlantic World” (Middleton).  For the city of New York, its future depended on access to the imported goods and colonial and European markets provided by the maritime trade. Middleton says how, Truxes  tells the story of  the men who “trade with the enemy and who provide the focus for Defying Empire: men who considered themselves loyal and devoted subjects, who outfitted British expeditions against the French, and who celebrated imperial victories and lamented defeats even as they made handsome profits by trading with the enemy” (Middleton).  

Middleton than begins to talk about George Spencer, a man who tries to profit from gathering information and help capture and prosecute smugglers. However, in a turn of events, Spencer gets himself jailed and is headed towards a downward spiral. The reviewer says how “Spencer’s misadventures capture the pervasive colonial participation in smuggling and imperial impotence at the level of local enforcement which animate Defying Empire.” (Middleton).  He also expresses how the first chapter sets out the importance of merchant trade on the eve of the Seven Years War and the difficulty raised by the arrival and provisioning of the English naval force and thousands of ordinary seamen. By chapter two the city is effectively under occupation with local merchants having to run the gauntlet of Admiral Sir Charles Hardy, provincial governor (Middleton).

As a final note Middleton says the following: “The book is beautifully crafted: Spencer holds the action together and the chapters open with anecdotes and insights which are then contextualized and the implications teased out in a model of historical writing. The findings are supported by solid research in the usual primary and secondary sources for study of the 18th-century city. Truxes’s skill is in spinning sparse legal sources and a well-known and pretty humdrum theme – smugglers carrying on their trade in the face of exasperated authorities – into such an engaging yarn.”



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