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Corruption and contractors in the North Atlantic, 1754-63

Graham, AB; (2018) Corruption and contractors in the North Atlantic, 1754-63. The English Historical Review , 133 (564) pp. 1093-1119. 10.1093/ehr/cey274. Green open access

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Abstract

This article examines the reality of corruption among contractors in North America during the French and Indian War (1754–63), one of the key grievances in the prologue to the Revolution, and argues that contemporaries were mistaken about its ubiquity. The letters of financial contractors remitting money to their agents show that they saw it as a patriotic duty rather than just a commercial transaction, and frequently went beyond the letter of the contract in order to maintain the flow of money to the British army in North America. Why did corruption therefore appear so dangerously prevalent? Military finance was inherently complex and opaque, and open to misinterpretation. Although shared political loyalties held together the contractors and their agents and helped to police their behaviour, other imperial and colonial components of the British state had different priorities and therefore saw the public service in different ways. Disagreements over military finance were misconstrued by both sides as obstruction, and as evidence of outright corruption, which served as a polemical tool to discredit alternative views of the public interest. Corruption therefore appeared so prevalent, and obtained such political power, because of misunderstandings and contests within the fabric of the British state about the best direction for public policy.

Type: Article
Title: Corruption and contractors in the North Atlantic, 1754-63
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1093/ehr/cey274
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1093/ehr/cey274
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of History
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1574686
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