This is a remarkable tour de force, in thematic and chronological coverage broad, seamlessly shifting between two colonial cultures and their metropoles. Elliott crafts a political, institutional, and cultural narrative spiced with usually well-founded, penetrating insight — withal, infused with an understandable British triumphalism in its repeated recourse to Protestantism and English libertarianism. Empires of the Atlantic is an outstanding contribution to the historian’s craft and, on reflection, could only be produced by a craftsman at home in the history of sixteenth-and especially seventeenth-century western Europe. It is also a measure of how far we have come over the past half-century in the historiography of the occupation of the western Atlantic after Columbus’s inadvertent landfall, since Vera Brown Holmes’s pioneer first volume, A History of the Americas from Discovery to Nationhood (1950), which, it must be noted, also embraced French Canada and Brazil.

Comparative history is...

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