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.
Go to my website: http://julieflavell.com/
or read my bio below:
I was born in the United States and grew up in Massachusetts, where I acquired a life-long interest in the American Revolution. After graduating from Bryn Mawr College, I gained my PhD in history at University College London in 1988. I now live in Scotland with my husband, who is British, and my two children, who have dual citizenship. I have lectured in American history at Dundee and Edinburgh Universities, where I specialized in the Revolutionary era.
A lifetime spent toggling between America and the UK has led me to ponder exactly when and how Britons and Americans began to think of themselves as a separate people. 'When London Was Capital of America' explores the period just before the American Revolution through the eyes of individual colonists in London, and shows that Americans still saw themselves as British - and were seen as such in their capital city - right up to the start of the American Revolution.
But my book reveals that America's British heritage is not a simple story of Anglo-Saxon roots. Instead it's about a very diverse people who came from all parts of the Eighteenth century British empire, including Africa - and that is how Georgian Londoners saw the colonists.
My biggest challenge was to tell the story of Robert Scipio Laurens, an American slave from South Carolina who came to London with his master, Henry Laurens, in 1771. He was the only character in the book whose story was never told in his own words, because only Henry Laurens' account survives to tell of the power-struggle that took place between master and slave in London.
Go to the link below to listen to my radio interview with Mark Lynch at WCIN, in which I talk about the book and explain how I reconstructed Robert's world - and discovered the outcome of his enterprising bid for freedom in colonial America's capital city.