The Memory of John Paul Jones in Anglo-American Relations, c. 1900s-c. 1990s.

Funded by The Royal Society of Edinburgh.

In life, some of John Paul Jones’s (1747-1792) exploits were as glorious as others were dubious. In the American War of Independence he rebelled against his own country, Britain, and raided his Scottish homeland. For this the US Congress awarded him a gold medal and named him commander of their fleet. In his service to Russia he rose to the rank of rear admiral. Yet Jones also stands accused of deeds today considered abominable, including trading in enslaved people, ending a mutiny with murder, and abusing a young woman.

The contradictions of Jones’s life raise questions about his historical reputation, especially in the period examined by this project. The 1900s witnessed UK-US rapprochement, when decades of diplomatic tension appeared to give way to newfound cooperation underpinned by shared imperialism, trade, and Anglo-Saxonism. Not coincidentally, the excavation of Jones’s long-lost grave in Paris in 1905 provided President Theodore Roosevelt with the opportunity to deploy Jones’s memory to promote the expansion of US naval power. With questions of naval competition continuing into the 1920s, it is pertinent to consider where Jones’s legacy sat in Anglo-American relations.

By 1947 the US Congress had established the JPJ Bicentennial Commission to orchestrate anniversary celebrations, including official events in Scotland. In 1953, a plaque was unveiled at Jones’ birthplace in Dumfries by the Navy and the Daughters of the American Revolution. Such transatlantic commemorations served not only the US government’s domestic agendas, but also a realignment in early Cold War Anglo-American relations. Memory diplomacy continued with the Bicentennial of the American Revolution in 1976, by which point the rise of Scottish nationalism served to complicate representations of Jones’s overlapping Scottish-ness, British-ness, and American-ness. By exploring these key developments, this project will contribute to memory studies and the history of the UK-US relationship and cultural diplomacy.

Total award value £3,623.39

People (2)


Dr Stephen Bowman

Dr Stephen Bowman

Lecturer in British Political History, History

Dr Gyorgy Toth

Dr Gyorgy Toth

Lecturer, History

Outputs (1)