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134 historiography and the “art of the historian” Chapter Five Empire and the “Annals of Europe” The years between 1775 and 1815 constitute a crucial episode in the evolutionary history of Europe and America. Between the start of the American Revolution, with the first armed clashes between British regulars and American militiamen at Concord and Lexington, and the closing act of the French Revolution, with the eclipse of Napoleon’s dreams of pan-European glory on the battlefield of Waterloo, America and Europe witnessed the rise and fall of radicalism, which left virtually no aspect of public and private life untouched. While the American colonies managed to wrench themselves away from their colonial parent, and while France careered down the stormy rapids of its own Revolution, Great Britain went through the turbulent process of redefining itself vis-à-vis both these emerging nations, and the world at large. —W. M. Verhoeven and Beth Dolan Kauntz, Revolutions and Watersheds: Transatlantic Dialogues 1775–1815 (1999) If Brown’s historical sketches and various periodical reviews, philosophical essays , and extracts prepared him for the practical aspects of history writing, his serial publication of the “Annals of Europe and America” in the American Register ; or, General Repository of History, Politics, and Science (1807–09) was a natural extension of his theoretical forays into history. His coverage of the Napoleonic Wars and British colonization efforts in the “Annals of Europe” and his practice of appending foreign state papers in the American Register testify to transnational events in Europe after the French Revolution and introduced his readers to a wide variety of events having to do with the expansion of European empires generally—and revolution, war, nationalism, and reform specifically.1 Such activities would allow him to see, for instance, that the United States was not the only country to claim divine sanction as part of claims for territorial expansion 134 Kamrath text.indb 134 3/2/10 1:26:26 PM Empire and the “Annals of Europe” 135 and that other countries, France in particular, also invoked a “redeemer nation” rationale.2 Brown’s encounter with this kind of rhetoric in various public and private documents relating to the Napoleonic Wars would ultimately contribute, as I contend later, to an altered sense of filiopietistic history writing and American exceptionalism. In this chapter, I specifically analyze how Brown’s Quaker upbringing prepared him in his “Annals of Europe” to analyze the chaotic political, military, and social winds of post-Revolutionary Europe, specifically the aftermath of the French Revolution, Napoleonic rule in Europe; the spread of the British Empire in South America and India; Napoleon’s march through the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe in countries like Turkey and Prussia; and, finally, English aggression against Copenhagen and Denmark and the tragedy of Napoleonic pillage in Portugal. Despite his efforts toward, and reflections on, not indulging in historical bias, Brown’s historical narrative brings a specifically American perspective to events unfolding in Europe, one not commonly found in the early Republic except in newspapers. Using postcolonial theory, from Edward Said to more recent scholars, I argue that Brown’s systematic analysis of Napoleon’s military campaigns and English military aggression enabled him to better understand the symbiotic relationship between political and economic self-interest, especially as it related to military imperialism. Moreover, as Brown’s historical consciousness evolved relative to his analysis of the events and ideologies of early nineteenthcentury European imperialism, colonialism, nationalism, and how colonial assumptions about race and gender construct and subjugate the Other, his history writing itself also changed. He simultaneously began to articulate, sometimes in the form of footnotes, questions about historical evidence, and he began to articulate a resistance to political injustice—a sympathy for oppressed races that recalls his earlier philosophical radicalism. Napoleonic Rule in Europe To begin, on October 31, 1807, Joseph Dennie published in his Port Folio a review of Brown’s American Register in general and the “Annals of Europe and America” in particular. The review remarks how Brown’s publication is similar to “Dodsley ’s Annual Register, and has long been wanted in this country” as a means of preserving all the “valuable historical, state, and miscellaneous papers.”3 The annals, the review continues, is “entirely original,” “modeled after Burke’s historical introductions” and “written with great ability, and in a temper of the utmost moderation.”4 And in the February 27, 1808, issue of the Port Folio, the reviewer states that the annals contain “an accurate and impartial history...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781612775494
Related ISBN
9781606350324
MARC Record
OCLC
746880433
Pages
352
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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