When London Was Capital of America Julie Flavell

Publication date:
16 Jan 2012
Yale University Press
320 pages: x x 16mm
36 b-w illus.
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Benjamin Franklin secretly loved London more than Philadelphia: it was simply the most exciting place to be in the British Empire. And in the decade before the outbreak of the American Revolution, thousands of his fellow colonists flocked to the Georgian city in its first big wave of American visitors. At the very point of political rupture, mother country and colonies were socially and culturally closer than ever before.

In this first-ever portrait of eighteenth-century London as the capital of America, Julie Flavell recreates the famous city's heyday as the centre of an empire that encompassed North America and the West Indies. The momentous years before independence saw more colonial Americans than ever on London's streets: wealthy Southern plantation owners in quest of culture, slaves hoping for a chance of freedom, Yankee businessmen looking for opportunities in the city, even Ben Franklin seeking a second, more distinguished career.

The stories of the colonials, no innocents abroad, vividly recreate a time when Americans saw London as their own and remind us of the complex, multiracial - at times even decadent - nature of America's colonial British heritage.

Julie Flavell, the author and editor of many scholarly and popular publications on the relationship between colonial America and Britain, including Britain and America Go to War, is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and an independent scholar. Born in the United States, she currently lives in Scotland.

"A wonderful evocation of the full panorama and panoply of life in eighteenth-century London."-Andrew O Shaughnessy, author of An Empire Divided

"Flavell’s study offers wonderfully evocative glimpses into the lives of men such as Benjamin Franklin, who lived in the city for 17 years."—The Guardian

"With clarity and sure authority, Julie Flavell tells us challenging things that will cast new light on the many readers' commonly-held beliefs. This is a splendid book." -Peter Marshall

"A fascinating account of Americans in London in the 1760s and 1770s. Julie Flavell ingeniously weaves together the experiences of the Laurens family of South Carolina, Stephen Sayre of Long Island, and Benjamin Franklin, plus many other colonists, to reveal the rich variety of their London life, and she also illuminates the growing tensions of the revolutionary crisis in strikingly new ways." -Richard S. Dunn, author of Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies, 1624-1713

"Beautifully reimagining a city that was a distant but integral part of American life…essential reading." -Andrea Wulf, New York Times Book Review

"Flavell paints a vivid and compelling picture of London as the cultural, political, and economic center of colonial American life." -Eliga H. Gould, author of The Persistence of Empire

"An engaging social history, written with a novelist's eye for character and plot." Gaiutra Bahadur, The Observer

"Julie Flavell has produced not an account of the administration of the American colonies from London but something much more original…She reveals an extraordinary, almost forgotten world, rich with anecdote." -Duncan Fallowell, Daily Express

"This is a fine, original book, and a jolly good read." -Tim Richardson, Country Life

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