Zara Anishanslin, University of Delaware
Barra Sabbatical Fellow
“London Patriots: Transatlantic Politics, Material Culture, and the American Revolution”
London Patriots: Transatlantic Politics, Material Culture, and the American Revolution narrates the transatlantic history of how supporters of the American cause used material culture to spread ideologies, organize protest, incite rebellion, wage war, and begin to build a new nation. Using an Atlantic World conceptual framework that frames the history of the American Revolution as a fluid event best understood beyond the confines of the nation state, London Patriots follows the evidentiary trail of objects and images and a key cast of historical actors both familiar and little known. It focuses on pro-American patriots who connected in overlapping social, artistic, and political networks, all of whom used material culture to further politics, and all of whom lived in England at some point during the revolutionary era. To do so, it crosses historical fields of study as well as geographies. It draws upon fields of political, military, women’s, cultural, and Atlantic World history, and the history of slavery, as well as material culture studies. It is inspired by the political as well as historical imperative that we highlight neglected or forgotten contributions to our national origin stories, particularly those related to women, immigrants, and people of color.
London Patriots moves the American War for Independence across the Atlantic to England and then back again, looking at the interconnected lives—and a prosopography of soldiers, artists, politicians, prisoners, family members, and spies related to them—of three pro-American artists (Prince Demah, Robert Edge Pine, and Patience Wright) who each lived in London during the revolutionary era. Demah (?c. 1750-1778), the first identifiable enslaved American portrait painter, studied in London with Pine (1730s-1788) before emancipating himself from his Loyalist slaveholders and enlisting to fight for the Patriots. Pine, a prize–winning British artist widely thought to be of African descent himself, later emigrated to America and established the first American art museum. In London, he and his family were connected through artistic, familial, and political networks to Patience Wright (1725-1786), celebrated American wax modeler and London-based spy who was also America’s first native born sculptor. Using these remarkable yet under-studied people as central actors, London Patriots aims to convince a popular audience of the fascinating historical truth that the American Revolution was a global war, fought in an array of places, on multiple fronts, by a diverse group of global foot soldiers, women as well as men, black as well as white, residents of London as well as the thirteen colonies, spy as well as statesman, and artist as well as soldier.