Historians face the problem of how to write the history of the eighteenth-century British empire. How can the history of Britain and the history of its empire be brought together? Recent research has demonstrated the value of employing the idea of networks to describe the interrelatedness of empire. In the history of science and economic history such a notion has been quite thoroughly articulated, particularly in relation to the exchange of botanical knowledge and the transaction of goods. Here it is argued that conceiving of empire as a set of networks through which knowledge and ideas were exchanged, trust was negotiated, goods were traded, and people travelled is an avenue worth pursuing in the project to write the history of the eighteenth-century British empire.
(Published Online May 24 2004)
1 I am very grateful to Kate Davies, Simon Smith, and Matthew Townend for their comments on earlier versions of this essay.