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Once London was the Capital of America, really

American Colonists in London

A favorite thing to do when visiting the library is to cruise the aisles that are home to books on history and scan the shelves for something different. One day, I got lucky.

It was on an eye-level shelf at the end of a row, so I could see the title  "When London Was Capital of America." What! How can this be?

I checked out the book, of course, and it didn't take long to realize that title was exactly right. At one time, London was the capital of America  before 1776 when the 13 colonies were part of the British empire, just as London was the capital of other British possessions around the world. (I must have been absent the days this was discussed in my U.S. history classes!)

The lure of London

At the time, London was the largest city in the Western world  the crème de la creme for theater, retailing, publishing, art and music, the financial center for a vast trading empire, the seat of a mighty empire.

The author, Julie Flavell, takes readers on an excursion to London between 1755 and 1775 to find the city crawling with American colonists.

In the 20 years before independence, well-to-do colonists crossed the pond constantly to indulge in the wealth and wonders of London. Most were from New York, Pennsylvania and the southern colonies  and they were wealthy. At least 50 families from South Carolina were living in London during the late colonial period. Tobacco and rice planters and their families gravitated to the fashionable West End area, where they purchased homes and socialized. DeLancey, Manning, Laurens, Izard, Moultrie, Rawlings, Wright, Brailsford were a few of the wealthy elites of Britain's America before 1776.

They went for pleasure and business  many did the Grand Tour. Those from the South brought their African slaves, who integrated with the English servant class and found new opportunities.

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