Trouble at the Edge of Empire: Principals, Agents, and Others at the Origins of American Modernity


ACLS Fellowship Program




This study elaborates a theoretical model of empire as a series of connections between principals, agents, and others, and articulates a historical link between imperial dynamics and characteristically modern institutions. Through an analysis of three cases in which sovereignty was disrupted at the periphery of empire—Bacon's Rebellion in Virginia (1676), the period between the Glorious Revolution and the new charter in Massachusetts (1689-1692), and resistance to the whiskey excise in Western Pennsylvania (1791-1794)—it examines the historical legacy of imperial responses to disruption. Taken together, the cases highlight cultural variations in how challenges to imperial sovereignty are expressed, and the institutional innovations that can occur when empires respond to such challenges.