The body politic and the family quarrel : the War of American Independence, metaphor and visual imagery in Britain
The thesis examines images produced in Great Britain between c. 1765 and 1789, and relates them to general concerns about the relationship between Britain and the thirteen colonies on the Atlantic seaboard of North America that declared their independence in 1776. Anglo-American conflict in this period was frequently conceptualized through metaphors that imagined events as an attack on the body politic or a quarrel within the wider British family. The thesis is concerned with the connections between these metaphors through artists' embodiments of Great Britain and her colonies, principally as Britannia and an American Indian, and the ways in which they were contextualized by contemporary social, political and cultural experience. The various gender and generational permutations of the conflict metaphorized as a family quarrel relate the colonial relationship to wider contemporary concerns about the relationships between parents and children. Similarly the figurative division of the transatlantic community was imagined as the literal dismemberment of the British body politic, and contextualized through medical discourse and practice. As a civil war the conflict was often conceptualised as a quarrel between male members of the family or a culinary attack on the colonial body politic. The entry of the European powers to the conflict seems to have brought about a trend away from the conceptualization of the war as a family quarrel. The entry of Spain to the war in 1779 destabilized this metaphor's narrative and gradually caused it to be replaced with other figures revealing a switch in perception from civil war to a more traditional view relating to the balance of power within Europe. Furthermore, the thesis suggests that the Franco-American treaties of 1778 and resultant military alliance were significant steps in the process whereby Anglo-American colonists came to be regarded as foreigners rather than fellow Britons.