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The Gaelic and Indian Origins of the American Revolution

Diversity and Empire in the British Atlantic, 1688-1783

Samuel K. Fisher

Publication Date - August 2022

ISBN: 9780197555842

336 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock


How did an unlikely group of peoples--Irish-speaking Catholics, Scottish Highlanders, and American Indians--play an even unlikelier role in the origins of the American Revolution?

Drawing on little-used sources in Irish and Scottish Gaelic, The Gaelic and Indian Origins of the American Revolution places these typically marginalized peoples in Ireland, Scotland, and North America at the center of a larger drama of imperial reform and revolution. Gaelic and Indian peoples experiencing colonization in the eighteenth-century British empire fought back by building relationships with the king and imperial officials. In doing so, they created a more inclusive empire and triggered conflict between the imperial state and formerly privileged provincial Britons: Irish Protestants, Scottish whigs, and American colonists. The American Revolution was only one aspect of this larger conflict between inclusive empire and the exclusionary patriots within the British empire.

In fact, Britons had argued about these questions since the Glorious Revolution of 1688, when revolutionaries had dethroned James II as they accused him of plotting to employ savage Gaelic and Indian enemies in a tyrranical plot against liberty. This was the same argument the American revolutionaries--and their sympathizers in England, Scotland, and Ireland--used against George III. Ironically, however, it was Gaelic and Indian peoples, not kings, who had pushed the empire in inclusive directions. In doing so they pushed the American patriots towards revolution.

This novel account argues that Americans' racial dilemmas were not new nor distinctively American but instead the awkward legacies of a more complex imperial history. By showcasing how Gaelic and Indian peoples challenged the British empire--and in the process convinced American colonists to leave it--Samuel K. Fisher offers a new way of understanding the American Revolution and its relevance for our own times.


  • Uses a comparative history of Ireland, Scotland, and America to create a new explanation of the origins of the American Revolution
  • Employs Irish and Scottish Gaelic language sources and puts them in conversation with American Indigenous perspectives
  • Roots American patriots' ideas about liberty and exclusion in the seventeenth-century British empire

About the Author(s)

Samuel K. Fisher is Assistant Professor of History at the Catholic University of America. He is the co-editor of Bone and Marrow/Cnámh agus Smior: An Anthology of Irish Poetry from Medieval to Modern.


"This book is an historical tour de force. With a wonderful comparative focus on indigenous nations of North America and Scottish and Irish Gaels, Samuel Fisher has not only provided fresh perspectives on the American Revolution but also on the transatlantic movement of peoples from the British Isles in the eighteenth century." -- Sir Tom Devine, University of Edinburgh

"In 1776, the British Empire was a diverse, multinational dominion, but it was also a dominion run by — and almost exclusively for the benefit of — British, Irish, and Anglo-American Protestants. In this important, wide-ranging book, Samuel K. Fisher shows how unresolved questions over the place of Irish Catholics and Native Americans within Britain's eighteenth-century empire helped drive the conflicts that tore that empire apart. The result is a new and compelling account of the American Revolution's origins." -- Eliga Gould, author of Among the Powers of the Earth: The American Revolution and the Making of a New World Empire

"Samuel Fisher looks to British, rather than purely English, history to explain why the elite in thirteen of Britain's American colonies decided suddenly in the 1770s that the imperial government had become oppressive and must be rejected. In this provocative and timely book, Fisher demonstrates how the attempt by George III to include Native Americans within his empire proved as offensive to 'exclusionary patriots' as had the actions of James II in treating Scottish Highlanders and Irish Catholics as equals with his Protestant subjects in the three kingdoms." -- Nicholas Canny, National University of Ireland, Galway

"With a long view and an Atlantic perspective, Samuel Fisher explains how Irish Catholics, Scottish Highlanders, and American Indians reshaped the British Empire, and in doing so helped bring about the American Revolution. Thoughtfully and systematically considering empire, revolution, and nation-building in terms of inclusion and exclusion, this book challenges easy assumptions about tyranny and freedom in the eighteenth century and about the kind of society American revolutionaries created." -- Colin G. Calloway, author of White People, Indians, and Highlanders: Tribal Peoples and Colonial Encounters in Scotland and America

Table of Contents

    Note on Translation and Terminology

    Part I: Exclusionary Constitution
    Chapter 1: The Unlikely Alliance: Origins of Inclusive Empire
    Chapter 2: Fit Instruments I: Origins of the Exclusionary Patriots
    Chapter 3: Lockhart's Question: Creating the Exclusionary Constitution
    Part II: Atlantic '45
    Chapter 4: The French Connection: Resisting the Exclusionary Constitution from Without
    Chapter 5: Imperial Go-Betweens: Resisting the Exclusionary Constitution from Within
    Chapter 6: Atlantic '45: Breaking the Exclusionary Constitution
    Part III: Inclusive Empire
    Chapter 7: Reform: Reviving the Inclusive Empire
    Chapter 8: The Tender Father with Shit-Stained Britches: Contradictions of the Inclusive Empire
    Chapter 9: Interest and Economy: Debating the Inclusive Empire
    Chapter 10: King George Will Have Us All: Making the Inclusive Empire
    Part IV: Exclusionary Patriots
    Chapter 11: Fit Instruments II: Return of the Exclusionary Patriots
    Chapter 12: Dilemmas of Dependence: Exclusion and Exceptionalism


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