Defying Empire


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Trading with the Enemy in Colonial New York

Thomas M. Truxes

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A dramatic account of illicit trading by New York City merchants, some of whom became America’s Founding Fathers, during the French and Indian War

This enthralling book is the first to uncover the story of New York City merchants who engaged in forbidden trade with the enemy before and during the Seven Years’ War (also known as the French and Indian War). Ignoring British prohibitions designed to end North America’s wartime trade with the French, New York’s merchant elite conducted a thriving business in the French West Indies, insisting that their behavior was protected by long practice and British commercial law. But the government in London viewed it as treachery, and its subsequent efforts to discipline North American commerce inflamed the colonists.

Through fast-moving events and unforgettable characters, historian Thomas M. Truxes brings eighteenth-century New York and the Atlantic world to life. There are spies, street riots, exotic settings, informers, courtroom dramas, interdictions on the high seas, ruthless businessmen, political intrigues, and more. The author traces each phase of the city’s trade with the enemy and details the frustrations that affected both British officials and independent-minded New Yorkers. The first book to focus on New York City during the Seven Years’ War, Defying Empire reveals the important role the city played in hastening the colonies’ march toward revolution.

Thomas M. Truxes is a member of the Irish Studies faculty at New York University. His previous books include Irish-American Trade, 1660–1783.

“Few history books make an original scholarly argument and rivet the reader’s attention from start to finish. Defying Empire does both: a remarkable, rewarding book.”—Fred Anderson, author of Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766

"Truxes forges a gripping tale about the conflict between New York's merchant community and British military leaders charged with winning Great Britain's first world war—the French and Indian War."—John McCusker, Trinity University

Defying Empire is simply riveting. It is narrative history of the highest order, and yet it makes a little-known but crucial point about the conflict between commercial greed and imperial loyalty during the Seven Years War. Truxes writes beautifully, evoking the sound and smell of provincial New York, and bringing his unappealing cast of characters to life. This is an important contribution to political history, but it might also be the script for a wonderful TV miniseries!”—Stanley N. Katz, author of Newcastle’s New York: Anglo-American Politics, 1732-1753

"Truxes writes scholarly history with a fine narrative flair. . . . The book as a whole is a delight to read."—PhiloBiblos

"Defying Empire is one of the most remarkable books I've read in years. The story of how New York's merchants traded with the French during the Seven Years War is revelatory. It depicts a degree of alienation or indifference or both to demands for imperial loyalty from London that foreshadows the coming American Revolution. It is also a riveting drama in and of itself."—Thomas Fleming, author of The Perils of Peace: America's Struggle to Survive After Yorktown  



"Truxes narrates his tale superbly, creating a memorable assemblage of settings, scenes, and characters. A long-vanished world is brought to life as Truxes transports his readers from the docks and the coffeehouses of the port towns, to the decks of ships as they traversed dangerous seas or slipped in and out of Atlantic harbours, and into the tense courtrooms of New York. Truxes achieves this sense of immediacy through his impressive use of a wide range of primary sources. . . . Full of interesting detail and written with such impressive style, Defying Empire deserves and will engage a wide readership."—Julie Atkinson, Journal of British Studies

"Truxes, a distinguished historian of Irish American trade during the colonial era, has written a riveting account of the conflict between the merchants of New York and imperial officials during the Seven Years' War, weaving political, economic, and business history into a compelling narrative. . . . Truxes' account is thoroughly researched, engagingly written, and marked by rich detail."—Russell R. Menard, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"[An] engaging account of New York City during the Seven Years' War." —J. D. Rice, Choice

"Truxes is to be praised for his efforts to detail colonial smuggling. This is a subject we need to know much more about in order to come to terms with the transition to capitalism in colonial America, and in order to better understand the commercial ties that bound the Atlantic World."--Christopher P. Magra, International Journal of Maritime History

"An engaging narrative. . . . This is not the first scholarly work on smuggling in the mid-Atlantic, but Truxes has made a few choices that separate his study from others."—Cathy Matson, The Historian

Finalist for the 2009 Francis Parkman Prize sponsored by the Society of American Historians.
ISBN: 9780300118407
Publication Date: November 18, 2008
304 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
20 b/w maps
The Overseas Trade of British America

A Narrative History

Thomas M. Truxes

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