Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Loyalism and Loyalists in the British Empire

A One-Day Workshop hosted by the British and Irish Worlds Research Group, Northumbria University

Call for Papers
“The Alternative of Williams-burg,” 1775.
A print showing the coercion of Virginia loyalists.
Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Northumbria University’s British and Irish Worlds Research Group is inviting papers from postgraduates and established academics for a one-day workshop that will explore the meaning, character and diversity of loyalism in the British Empire. Inspired by a recent growth in the literature on loyalism in old- and new-world contexts, Loyalism and Loyalty in the British Empire is intended to deepen our understanding of a topic which connects with numerous themes in British, imperial and British World studies, but one which has so far lacked a comparative perspective that considers how loyalism and loyalists differed across time and space.

Until recently, loyalism was considered as a static and conservative creed, one associated with enclaves of Protestant white male elites in particular corners of the British Empire. Loyalism also tended to be overlooked by a scholarly profession that was more interested in understanding the liberal and reformist strands in empire, and the development of national identities.

But recent work—Maya Josanoff’s study of loyalism in the American Revolutionary period is a particularly good example—has encouraged historians to view loyalism as a much more complicated and dynamic phenomenon. Loyalists came in many shapes and sizes; different languages of loyalty were spoken by settler and indigenous communities for strategic and ideological reasons; and British, Afrikaner, French Canadian and African populations all had different ideas on how and why empire could be maintained. We also know that loyalists were not always unblinking adherents of monarchy and British institutions. Feelings of betrayal prompted some to adopt reformist or revolutionary stances, and in some cases loyalists threatened separation and secession. Other considerations which we might pursue include:

* How did different communities of loyalists—both within colonies and over a larger imperial canvass—interact and communicate with one another?

* What was the ethnic, class and gendered make-up of loyalist communities, and did loyalists always identify themselves as ‘loyalists’?

* What were imperial loyalists loyal to, and did this change over time?

* Was there an ideology of loyalism, or were the differences between imperial loyalists more important than what connected them?

* How were loyalist diasporas formed, how did they sustain themselves, and what role did churches, associations and commemorations play in imperial loyalism?

* Was loyalism a strategic or pragmatic position for non-white and non-Christian communities, or are there ways for us to test loyalist sincerity?

* How did loyalism interact with regional, colonial and national identities across the British World?

Abstracts of 200-300 words that relate to these and related themes are sought. Please send the abstract to either Dr Joe Hardwick ( or Colin Reid ( by 6 February 2015. The workshop will take place on 24 April 2015. The keynote speaker is Dr Allan Blackstock (University of Ulster).

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