- England's Internal Colonies: Class, Capital, and the Literature of Early Modern English Colonialism
So often a typology exists in representation. Such a double vision occurs in the colonial expansion of England in the early modern period. The doubleness is between here and there, home and away, what can be expressed as internal and external colonies.
Mark Netzloff explores the relation between the internal and external in England of this time. For him, incipient or protocapitalism is the context for English expansion and the troubles that caused at home. The pressures on a growing underclass and on the periphery of Britain and Ireland are also telling, so that colonialism revealed as much about class and culture as it did about the English state or nation before the rise of the kinds of nationalism that became so familiar in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The centripetal forces of expansion and migration caused great strains in England itself. Netzloff concentrates on commerce, capital, and travel to tell this story. The central theme of this study is the formation of capital and class relations in the expanding nation.
The structure of the book is about geographical contexts for England — the East Indies, the Mediterranean, the Americas, the border between England and Scotland, and the Ulster plantation. The tensions between mercantilism and capitalism, a familiar story in the expansion of France, England, and other Western [End Page 620] European empires overseas, are an important strand in this discussion. This stress is especially true in the analysis of texts such as Sir Thomas Smith's A Discourse of the Commonweal of this Realm of England (1549, pub. 1581) and Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice (1596) in chapter 1. Piracy in the Mediterranean and Levant is the subject of chapter 2, which includes an examination of Thomas Heywood and William Rowley's Fortune by Land and Sea (1609). Chapter 3 discusses the Virginia Company's policy in regard to laborers, which includes discussions of Shakespeare's The Tempest and William Strachey's True Reportorie of the Wrack, and Redemption of Sir Thomas Gates, Knight (ca. 1612). In chapter 4, Netzloff looks at the union of Scotland and England under James I in terms of borderlands and the vagrants and gypsies who lived there. Here, Netzloff makes use of texts like James's Basilikon Doron (1599) and Ben Jonson's The Gypsies Metamorphosed (1621) to explore identity and boundaries. Chapter 5 discusses Ulster in terms of the power of knowledge, especially archives and maps, as a means to erase the material of colonization. John Speed's map of Ulster and his Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain (1611) illustrate this point in their erasure. In domestic contexts Netzloff stresses the continuities between England as a nation and Britain as an empire.
Much useful material and suggestive analysis occur in this book. For instance, Netzloff's examination of Robert Hitchcock's A Pollitique Platt (1580) as an early text advocating colonial and commercial networks as a way to reform laborers and the poor is helpful and does well to connect this work with Richard Hakluyt the Elder and the Younger. In "Discourse on Western Planting," Hakluyt the Younger picked up on central colonial and imperial themes in texts by and surrounding Sir Humphrey Gilbert in the 1560s and 1570s (including the letters patent of June 1578). No book can do everything, but here are some areas this reader would have liked to see developed more. Some work has been done on this connection and it would have been good to see Netzloff draw out this thread farther. Finally, a more detailed comparative approach would also have allowed more of a view of how other rival empires created pressure on the English at home and abroad and on the poorest and most vulnerable members of England. The relations with natives of the colonies is something that Strachey discusses in many contexts, including...