Oracles of empire : poetry, politics, and commerce in British America, 1690-1750 /
David S. Shields.
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1990.
xiv, 295 p. : ill.
0226752984 (alk. paper)
More Details
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1990.
0226752984 (alk. paper)
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Includes bibliographical references.
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Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1991-04:
In this remarkable book, Shields (The Citadel) treates a feature of British American culture that has been long overlooked. By examining a sizable body of poetry on commerce and trade, both from printed texts and in original manuscript, Shields has contextualized the work around three imperial themes: the promise to America of material and cultural wealth, the extent of royal power in the colonial government, and the rhetoric of imperial animosity. The result is a marvelous collection of neglected poetry (didactic verse, ballads, satire, elegies, fables, etc.) that makes inevitable a reassessment of the cultural, political, and economic influences on the literature of British America. Distinctive in its originality and ambitious in its scope, this book is recommended for graduate students and scholars of early American literary history and culture. -D. D. Knight, SUNY College at Cortland
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, April 1991
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Main Description
This innovative look at previously neglected poetry in British America represents a major contribution to our understanding of early American culture. Spanning the period from the Glorious Revolution (1690) to the end of King George's War (1750), this study critically reconstitutes the literature of empire in the thirteen colonies, Canada, and the West Indies by investigating over 300 texts in mixed print and manuscript sources, including poems in pamphlets and newspapers. British America's poetry of empire was dominated by three issues: mercantilism's promise that civilization and wealth would be transmitted from London to the provinces; the debate over the extent of metropolitan prerogatives in law and commerce when they obtruded upon provincial rights and interests; and the argument that Britain's imperium pelagi was an ethical empire, because it depended upon the morality of trade, while the empires of Spain and France were immoral empires because they were grounded upon conquest. In discussing these issues, Shields provides a virtual anthology of poems long lost to students of American literature.

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