Quarters: The Accommodation of the British Army and the Coming of the American Revolution
By John Gilbert McCurdy
When Americans declared independence in 1776, they cited King George III “for quartering large bodies of armed troops among us.” In Quarters, John Gilbert McCurdy explores the social and political history behind the charge, offering an authoritative account of the housing of British soldiers in America. Providing new interpretations and analysis of the Quartering Act of 1765, McCurdy sheds light on a misunderstood aspect of the American Revolution.
Quarters unearths the vivid debate in eighteenth-century America over the meaning of place. It asks why the previously uncontroversial act of accommodating soldiers in one’s house became an unconstitutional act. In so doing, the book reveals new dimensions of the origins of Americans’ right to privacy. It also traces the transformation of military geography in the lead up to independence, asking how barracks changed cities and how attempts to reorder the empire and the borderland led the colonists to imagine a new nation.
McCurdy emphatically refutes the idea that the Quartering Act forced British soldiers into colonial houses, demonstrates the effectiveness of the Quartering Act at generating revenue, and examines aspects of the law long ignored, such as its application in the back country and its role in shaping Canadian provinces.
Above all, Quarters argues that the lessons of accommodating British troops outlasted the Revolutionary War, profoundly affecting American notions of place. McCurdy shows that the Quartering Act had significant ramifications, codified in the Third Amendment, for contemporary ideas of the home as a place of domestic privacy, the city as a place without troops, and a nation with a civilian-led military.
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John Gilbert McCurdy is a Professor of History at Eastern Michigan University. He specializes in colonial and Revolutionary America, gender and LGBTQ history, and the Atlantic world. Much of his research examines the connections between social and political history in eighteenth-century North America. In addition to Quarters, Professor McCurdy is the author of Citizen Bachelor: Manhood and the Creation of the United States (Cornell, 2009), which explores how changes in the law, literature, and lives of bachelors informed American citizenship. He also has contributed essays to New Men: Manliness in Early America (NYU, 2011), Early American Studies, and Journal of Urban History.
Professor McCurdy is a Jack Miller Center fellow.
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