American Indians in the British Imperial Imagination, 1707–1815
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The chapter examines how Britons viewed American Indians during the eighteenth century, and how interactions with American Indians influenced British imperialism. The chapter identifies the Seven Years War (French and Indian Wars) as a watershed event in British interest in American Indians. During the conflict, images of Indians as martial figures filled the press, leaving little room for discussions of other aspects of Indian culture. At least partly in consequence, British policy-makers and the public alike came to understand Indians as warlike savages who threatened the British Empire in North America. The Scottish Enlightenment, too, embraced this view and utilized the Indians as living examples of humanity in its first stage of socioeconomic development. Only after the American Revolution, and the subsequent disengagement of the British public from American affairs, was the Indian able to emerge as a truly popular subject of sympathy and exemplar of the idealized noble savage.
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British North America in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries