Global Encounters and the Archives: Britain’s Empire in the Age of Horace Walpole

Diplomacy and Alliance

The Brave Old Hendrick, the Great Sachem or Chief of the Mohawk Indians (1775)

Throughout the long eighteenth century, Britain continuously navigated its place within a network of European powers amidst a series of wars that ravaged the continent.  In this context, its primary aim was to prevent the French monarchy from dominating over polities by maintaining a balance of power among the European states.  Such a balance was negotiated and upheld through international diplomacy and imperial alliances.  For the British, this included alliances with non-European Empires at the frontiers of its own territories.  The materials at the Lewis Walpole Library house a rich collection of eighteenth diplomatic materials including correspondence and prints that speak to Britain’s diplomatic strategy.  Through documents such as Charles Hanbury Williams’s Observations on Trade in Europe after the Peace (1748), Lord Clive’s Speech to Parliament on the history of the East India Company in Bengal (1772), and the anonymous print, The Great Henrick, the Great Sachem or Chief of the Mohawk Indians (1774), pictured to the left, it is clear that the British extended their methods of international diplomacy in Europe to their dealings with non-European Empires in India and North America.  These documents also reveal, however, significant differences in Britain’s treatment and portrayal of European versus indigenous powers, in which indigenous allies are often depicted with underpinnings of savagery and strangeness.  Nevertheless, these documents reveal a world of connectivity and of consciously global and imperial British diplomacy.

Further Reading: Diplomacy and Alliance