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The Cultural Work of Empire

The Seven Years' War and the Imagining of the Shandean State

Carol Watts

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This book argues that the Seven Years' War (1756-63) produced an intense historical consciousness within British cultural life regarding the boundaries of belonging to community, family and nation. Global warfare prompts a radical re-imagining of the state and the subjectivities of those who inhabit it.

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About the Author

Carol Watts is a Senior Lecturer in the School of English and Humanities, Birkbeck, University of London. She has published widely on eighteenth-century topics from architecture to women’s time, including work in Radical Philosophy and South Atlantic Quarterly, and articles on the work of Laurence Sterne. The author of Dorothy Richardson (1995), she is currently working on the flows of eighteenth-century women’s writing, and continuing research on transatlantic relations, for a book entitled The Loss of America.


This brilliant book is about the cultural history of the Seven Years War – the first global war. It describes how subjectivity was made and remade by the transforming power of globalisation, as it impinged on gender, the family, citizenship, sovereignty, work, agency, and belonging. The reach and range of its arguments are amazing.
- John Barrell, Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies, University of York
Original, wide-ranging and often insightful ... critics working on the cultureof the 1760s will ¢nd their own ideas are provoked, extended, and challenged by a careful reading of Watts’s demanding new book.
- Jack Lynch, Rutgers University, Review of English Studies
A tour de force of cultural and political analysis. Carol Watts’s witty and trenchant reading of mid-century literary culture shows how Britain’s bellicose global expansion necessitated the invention of new subjectivities and new kinds of subjection among its readers, writers and interlocutors. The result is a fresh recognition of the Seven Years War as a Shandean, iconoclastic moment of modernity, full of radical possibility, which ultimately redefined the relations between sovereignty, state and subject.
- Kathleen Wilson, Professor of History, State University of New York
This is an impressive work of scholarship. It is exemplary in that its specific concern with Sterne's work constantly opens into an engagement with literature's political unconscious. The analysis is often dazzling.
- Alberto Moreiras, Sixth Century Professor of Modern Thought and Hispanic Studies, University of Aberdeen