The Regulator Rebellion in Pre-Revolutionary North Carolina

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The Regulator Rebellion in Pre-Revolutionary North Carolina
Marjoleine Kars
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
August 24, 2021

Years before shots rang out at Lexington and Concord, backcountry settlers in the North Carolina Piedmont launched their own defiant bid for economic independence and political liberty. The Regulator Rebellion of 1766-1771 arose from the conflict created by competing ideologies and goals between the religious outlook of evangelical Protestants and mainstream Anglicans; between the aspirations of ordinary people to secure their land claims and the intransigence of the colonial administration and the absentee English aristocrats who held formal title to the region but refused to set up a land office for the orderly sale and recording of land titles; and between tidewater planters anxious to maintain their hold on political authority and the new arrivals in the interior, most of them from Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, whose demands for just representation threatened to shift the regional balance of power in the colony. The conflict culminated in the Battle of Alamance on May 16, 1771, when a colonial militia defeated more than two thousand armed farmers in a pitched battle near Hillsborough.

Using diaries, church minutes, legal papers and the richly detailed accounts of the Regulators themselves, Dr. Kars will delve into the world and ideology of free rural colonists, examining the rebellion’s economic, religious and political roots and exploring its legacy in North Carolina and beyond. The compelling story of the Regulator Rebellion reveals just how sharply elite and popular notions of independence differed on the eve of the Revolution.


About the Speaker

Marjoleine Kars is a professor of history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where she teaches early American history, Atlantic history and women’s history. A native of The Netherlands, she received her B.A. and Ph.D. from Duke University. She is the author of Breaking Loose Together: The Regulator Rebellion in Pre-Revolutionary North Carolina (2002) and Blood on the River: A Chronicle of Mutiny and Freedom on the Wild Coast (2020), which examines a massive slave rebellion in the Dutch colony Berbice (present-day Guyana) in South America. She is a senior editor for International Labor and Working Class History and a regular book reviewer for the Washington Post.