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Grant number like: FA-50195-04

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Edward Gordon Gray
Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL 32306-0001)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
8/1/2004 – 5/31/2005

The Life and Times of John Ledyard, the American Traveler Who Crossed Oceans and Empires

This application requests funding to complete a biography of the American traveler John Ledyard (1751-1789). Ledyard's extraordinary life brought him into contact with some of his era's most remarkable figures: the British explorer, Captain James Cook, the British natural historian Joseph Banks, the American financier Robert Morris, the Revolutionary naval commander John Paul Jones, and the revolutionaries Tom Paine and Thomas Jefferson. Ledyard's life also brought him to remarkable places, places at the edges of European empire: the New England backcountry, Tahiti, Hawaii, the American northwest coast, Alaska, and the Russian far east. This biography of Ledyard--the first in over fifty years--attempts to understand his relationship to these people and places. But it does so not simply to reveal how unusual Ledyard was, but rather to understand what made Ledyard typical, what implicated him in the major historical developments of his age. Perhaps the most important of these developments were the parallel growth of Anglo-American empire and the Revolutionary assault on the social and political sinews that held that empire together. For Ledyard's life, it is my contention, illuminates the ways these seemingly contrary forces shaped the lives of ordinary people, people who, like Ledyard, were at once products of early-modern empire and agents in its growth. In doing so, it also allows us to move beyond much recent work on the history of Anglo-American empire and to begin to glimpse empire less as a theoretical abstraction and more as something human beings lived and experienced in the ordinary course of life. In some sense then, this project is as much a biography of a unique American as it is a social history of empire in the era of the American Revolution.