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The Ideology of British Colonialism of America and the Development of the Ideology of Nationalism in Early America


The following is an annotated bibliography of article collection on the topic of ideology of British colonialism of America and the development of the ideology of nationalism in early America. The following articles provide a discourse for the formation of the ideology of empire, racism, and colonialism. They also provide information regarding the conditions of the Indians and how they were treated by the colonizers.

1.Bouanani, Moulay Ali. “Propaganda for Empire: Barbary Captivity Literature in the U.S.” Journal of Transatlantic Studies 7.4 (2009): 399-412. Routledge. Web. 26 Jul. 2013.

Bouanani’s article has arguments that speak in favor of the idea that empire and nation-building such as in the case of British colonialism of North America was based on a “sentimental demonization of the contact zone” with other peoples (399). Cotton Mather’s form of Protestantism, for example, was based on inventing enemies which were termed as Satan and then those enemies were racialised. Thus,  Puritanism became a “breeding ground” of racism towards Indians and rival Europeans (399-400).

As Nicholas Canny argues that British colonization of Ireland provided the rhetoric and ideological rhetoric for the colonization of America, Bouanani suggest that the Indian captivity narrative succeeded in demonizing the Indians and then the same narrative was extended to include demonization of Muslims. He argues that this tendency continues to the present day and shapes America’s ideology that it should have a rightful imperial control of a demoralized Orient. Such racial dichotomies provide the platform for narrative of empire whose sense of nationhood is justified by the colonization of the other (409-10).

2. Canny, Nicholas P. “The Ideology of English Colonization: From Ireland to America.” The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series 30.4 (1973): 575-598. JSTOR. Web. 26 Jul. 2013.

Canny calls for viewing the European conquest of America in the context of Elizabethan conquest of Ireland (575). The justification for colonization of Ireland extended as a justification for the colonization of America as well. Some of those such as Gilbert and Grenville who who were involved in the colonization of Ireland were entrusted with the responsibility of colonizing the New World also (578). These people harbored various fallacious beliefs such as the Gaelic Irish were considered unreliable and could be managed only with force while the English could be brought to civility by persuasion. The Irish were seen a puerile not capable of independent government just as Indians were considered lawless savages (589). The English colonists’ justification of colonial conquests was based on their view that they were superior to all races. This ideology was put to practice in Ireland and emulated in the New World.

3. MacMillan, Ken. “Benign and Benevolent Conquest?: The Ideology of Elizabethan Atlantic Expansion Revisited.” Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 9.1 (2011): 32-72. Web. 26 Jul. 2013.

MacMillan argues that contrary to the hostile connotation given to the word conquest, in Elizabethan Atlantic Expansion, it carried a benign and benevolent connotation whereby the colonial England desired to establish long-term peace relationship with the Europeans. However, over the time, the word lost its benevolent meaning. The doctrine of conquest developed in the law of the nation (33). The Elizabethan expansionist ideology was, in the line of Bacon’s phrase, conquests of the works of nature (62). They thought that the slow and noble process of subduing and improving the natural environment benefited both the colonized people and their lands. What MacMillan fails to notice is that the idea of benevolent and beneficent conquest is inherently condescending if not outrightly malignant for it denies basic humanity to those it conquers.

4. Silverman, David J. “The Curse of God: An Idea and Its Origins among the Indians of New York’s Revolutionary Frontier.” The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series 66.3 (2009): 495-534. Web. JSTOR. 25 Jul. 2013.

Silverman writes that the Indians were participants in early American debates about race. He cites example of Indians of Oneida country who had adopted Christian faith but they were unable to find equal benefits as the Europeans which led them to imagine that God cursed Indians as punished them for the sins of their ancestors. This is an important view to study because the study of ideology in the conquest of America, colonization and nation-building should also include Indian thoughts as before the European conquest and the change in them afterwards. Silverman writes that Indians developed the belief that they were cursed by God. He says that hypocrisy and graft were the essence of United States Indian affairs which disenchanted Indians who tried to live in a civilized manner and in accordance with the dictates of the Europeans. A balanced view emerges when one reads American Indian history that includes accounts by native Indians as well. The Indians did all that their white neighbors asked them to do including adopting the Christian religion and abandoning their land in return for peace and self-government. They migrated from their lands and fought for Europeans (534) but could not find what they desired which led to their internalizing the myth that they were cursed.

5. Mazzacano, Peter J. “Puritanism, Godliness, And Political Development In Boston & The General Court.” Journal Jurisprudence 12 (2011): 599-678. Academic Search Complete. Web. 30 July 2013.

Mazzacano studies the extent of influence exerted by Puritanism on American political culture. He observes that Puritan values and practices facilitated the development of an exceptional political culture during the Massachusetts Bay period (599). The author researches the political development in the General Court and the town of Boston between 1630 and 1640 by studying the writings of leading Puritans,and town church and colonial records. He finds that Puritans did not pay attention to notions of democracy, theocracy, oligarchy and so on but their godly ideal inadvertently reinforced democratic republican ideals. He says that “Puritanism and its component parts amounted to a formative ideology in the new world. Because their convictions had consequences in an ideologically-free environment, Puritan ideals must have been of primary importance in the shaping and perpetuation of a coherent set of political ideas and practices (677). This article adds another view of the ideologies that formed the concept of America as a nation in the earliest times as well as the ideology of colonialism and its successful perpetuation.


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