Exploring Contexts, Marking Boundaries, Charting Parallels

  • Robert D. Grant


By the late eighteenth-century, Britain possessed a sizeable empire in America (which it was shortly to lose), a vast territorial expansion was underway on the Indian sub-continent, and trade with West Africa and Asia was booming. This was a society characterised by burgeoning commercial interests and a quest for knowledge produced from a mix of mercantilism, gentlemanly dilettantism and growing industrial experimentation, one that looked critically at itself, as well as outwardly at global affairs, which it saw as the legitimate concern of a great civilised power. Evidence of this global purview was paraded in books, plays, engraved prints and the public spectacle of civic ceremony, military pageant and scientific experimentation; but perhaps nowhere was the complex range of that society more evident than in the flourishing popular press. In journals like The Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, parliamentary news, theatrical reviews and reports of the latest events in the American colonies jostled with advertisements for commodities such as Mr Frike’s performances on his ‘harmonic glasses’; seven Discourses delivered at the Royal Academy by Sir Joshua Reynolds; The New and Complete System of Geography by Charles Middleton; and recruitment subscriptions to the Royal Navy, army and marines from ‘such as are disposed to shew their regard for the welfare of Great Britain’.


Indigenous People Royal Academy Explore Context Interracial Contact Market Boundary 
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    The Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser (London) 20 & 21 April 1778; John Hawkesworth, Account of the Voyages Undertaken … for Making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere, 3 vols (London, 1773). Bristol Library borrowing records show Hawkesworth’s Voyages to be the most borrowed title between 1773 and 1784: see Alan Frost, ‘Captain James Cook and the Early Romantic Imagination’ in Captain fames Cook, Image and Impact, Walter Veit, (ed.), (Melbourne, 1972) pp. 90–106.Google Scholar
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    Jonathan Lamb, Preserving the Self in the South Seas (Chicago, 2001); George Hamilton, Voyage Round the World (Berwick, 1793) pp. 37, 39–40 & 87; George Forster, Voyage Round the World, 2 vols (London, 1777) vol. 1, p. 217.Google Scholar
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© Robert Grant 2005

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  • Robert D. Grant

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