Early Americans Abroad: Touring, Cosmopolitanism, and Cultural Identity


Panel organizer: George Boudreau, Penn State-Harrisburg gwb11@psu.edu


In the century following 1620, ships carrying thousands of emigrants from the old world to the new crossed the Atlantic Ocean. By the middle of the eighteenth century, other ships, carrying a far smaller cadre of passengers, sailed in the opposite direction, taking colonists from each region of British North America to destinations in the mother country as well as throughout the European continent.  This panel will bring together scholars from a variety of disciplines to ask the question: why?

While the numbers of tourists was small, touring’s impact was widespread.  In their personal and societal views, their ideals of art, their perceptions of literature and theatre, and their identity as both Americans and Britons, the tour had lasting implications.  Unlike earlier generations, these travelers were not going to the old world for old reasons: cementing business ties to merchant houses in London or continental cities, securing academic training, or seeking suitably wealthy spouses.  Instead, tourism took on new meanings by mid-century, grounded in popular perceptions of the Enlightenment, the empire, and the cultural world they wished to inhabit.

The young men and women who participated in “the tour” were drawn from the ranks of the British colonies emerging elite.  Sons of wealthy southern planters, children of wealthy mid-Atlantic merchants, and the offspring of New England’s town gentry travelled, but while they were elite within their native colonies, their level of wealth was far below the average tourist’s from Britain. 

This panel will seek to draw in SEA members from a variety of disciplines – history, art and architectural history, the history of theatre, and literary studies -- to explore the ways touring affected personal identity, social ambitions, and political culture in the years leading to and including the American Revolution.


Send your 250-word paper abstract to George Boudreau at gwb11@psu.edu by Friday, September 7, 2012.