The year 2015 marks the 250th anniversary of Great Britain's issuance of the Stamp Act, a law that required most printed materials in North America to be printed on paper bearing a revenue stamp. The justification for this tax was to pay for the quartering of English troops in America following the end of the Seven Years’ War. The law ignited a pamphlet war on both sides of the Atlantic. These exchanges, and those that followed in the lead-up to the American Revolution, so intrigued Thomas R. Adams, Librarian of the John Carter Brown Library from 1957 to 1983, that he compiled two bibliographies to assist scholars with interpreting the period and the events. The first, American Independence, the Growth of an Idea, appeared in 1965; the second, The American Controversy, in 1980.
In commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the Stamp Act, and of Thomas Adams' scholarly contributions, the following exhibition begins with the Stamp Act, moving on to the French and Haitian revolutions, and the wars for Spanish American independence. In addition to pamphlets, the exhibition also includes exchanges and arguments published in other formats, such as political cartoons and maps.