Episode 036: Abigail Swingen, Competing Visions of Empire

Competing Visions of Empire

How and where did the North American and Caribbean colonies fit within the British Empire?

The answer to this question depends on whether you explore the views of a British imperial officer, such as the King of England, or a colonist who lived in one of the North American or Caribbean colonies.

In today’s episode, Abigail Swingen, professor of history at Texas Tech University and author of Competing Visions of Empire: Labor, Slavery, and the Origins of the British Atlantic Empire, leads us on an exploration of how colonists and British imperial officers viewed the colonies and their place within the British Empire during the late 17th and early 18th centuries.


About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with an historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Episode Summary

Abigail SwingenIn this episode, we speak with Abigail Swingen, an Assistant Professor of History at Texas Tech University and the author of Competing Visions of Empire: Labor, Slavery, and the Origins of the British Atlantic Empire. Abby leads us on an exploration of the ways in which colonists and English imperial officials viewed the colonies and their place within the British Empire.

After helping us brush up on our English history, Abby reveals why England established colonies in North America and the Caribbean; The types of people who settled in the British Caribbean and North American colonies and how they lived; And, how both the colonists and British imperial officers, such as the King, came to hold competing visions of empire and what those competing visions were.


What You’ll Discover

  • Information about Abigail Swingen’s historical research
  • The differences between English history and British history
  • When England established colonies
  • Why England established colonies
  • Whether 17th-century England suffered from an overcrowding problem
  • Causes of the population increase in 17th-century western Europe
  • Information about English indentured servants and their backgrounds
  • The jobs indentured servants undertook in Great Britain’s southern North American and Caribbean colonies
  • The convicts who settled in British North America and the crimes they committed
  • The court sentence of “transportation”
  • How colonists felt about convicts settling among them
  • Life in the British Caribbean during the 17th and early 18th centuries
  • Details about the cash crops of the British Caribbean
  • When and why British colonists in North America turned to slavery as a labor source
  • Details about the Royal African Company and the role it played in the Stuart monarchs’ colonial policy
  • The Stuart Monarchs of England
  • Why British colonists in the Caribbean disliked the Royal African Company
  • Free trade views held by British Caribbean colonists
  • Details about privateers and privateering in the 17th and early 18th centuries
  • How and why the English people and government came to see slavery as an important component of their wealth and nation
  • How the English state and citizenry looked up the colonies in New England and the Mid-Atlantic that were not as reliant upon slavery as their southern and Caribbean counterparts

Stuart Monarchs


Links to People, Places, and Publications


Time Warp PlainTime Warp Question

In your opinion what might have happened if the English government had had the money and manpower to enforce the constitutional changes it wanted Jamaica and other colonies to adopt in the late 17th century? Would the crown have been able to force the colonists to submit to its rule and will? If so, how would relations between England and her colonies have been different?


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