Causes of the War of Independence

What caused the War of Independence? What policies did the British impliment that caused the Colonials to want to part from them? 

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  • Created by: Ben
  • Created on: 15-05-13 15:11

The Aftermath of the Seven Years War


Britain has an enormous debt after the war. It had risen from £72 million in 1755 to £137 million in 1763.

They had now acquired more land in the form of North America.

Colonials did not towards the war.

The Earl of Bute now thought it was necessary to send 10,000 British troops to North America on a permanent basis. This would cost money, and he wanted COLONISTS to pay for some of it.

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George Grenville

In power after Bute resigned in 1763.

His big concern was about the national debt, which was HUGE.

Annual interest on debt was £4.4million, and the income of the government was only £8million.

Grenville raised tax in order to reduce government expenditure

Colonial defence was also another thing that concerned him. 

He felt that colonials should pay towards their own defence, in the form of tax.
Americans paid sixpence a year at this time, compared to the British 25 shillings.

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Pontiac's Rebellion

May 1763

Ohio Valley Indian tribes, lead by Chief Pontiac, were angered by British traders and the fear of more of their land being taken away/used up by white settlers.

As a result of this, Pontiac (along with the tribes) destroyed every British post west of Niagra and they killed and captured hundreds of settlers.

British officials used bribes to stop most of the Indians/Iroquois. 

British soldiers defeated the majority of the Indians, not the colonists. This gave the impression that the colonists relied on British soldiers to keep the peace. 

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The Proclamation Line

October 1763

Put in place by Grenville.

It created 2 new provinces in East & West Florida.

It established a new colony of Quebec in Canada.

A boundary of white settlement was to be put in place along the Alleghenies (in response to Pontiac's rebellion). All land claimed west of this were to be cancelled.

Many saw it as a temporary measure to avoid white/Indian conflict. 

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The Plan


Placed fur trade directly under royal control

This meant that only licensed traders could obtain fur

Supervisors were appointed to see the exchange of fur between whites and Indians take place, in designated and approved areas (of course)

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The Sugar Act

April 1764

Reduced duty on foreign molasses (treacle like substance, it's sugar based) from 6d a gallon to 3d. This was reduced from the original Sugar Act of 1933.

This was a tax on pretty much anything sugar based.

It was seen that it would bring in £78,000 a year.

The reason for this Sugar Act was to raise revenue in order to pay for British troops, as opposed to protecting British West Indian planters like in the 1933 Sugar Act. 

Grenville added products such as wine, silk and coffee to the list of items that would increase in tax if they weren't traded through Britain. 

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The Currency Act


The Currency Act placed a ban on colonial paper money

All paper money in people's hands and shop owners hands had to be returned.

It was mostly aimed at Virginia, who had issued a large amount of paper money during the Seven Years War.

British merchants wanted debts to them paid in a suitable way.

Effects on Colonials:

Economic depression had hit the Americans hard after war so a lot of them were economically ruined due to this.

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The Stamp Act

1 November 1765 (When it first took effect)

Introduced to Parliament 6th Feb 1765

Given Royal assent on 22nd March 1765 (Let colonies know about it in March too)

This was a tax on 50 paper based items. Ranging from marriage licenses and playing cards to legal documents and newspapers.

It was going to bring in about £60,000 in first year

The money raised was going to be spent in the colonies ONLY

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American Reaction to Stamp Act

Arrived in colonies in April 1765

It affected everyone, so you could not avoid it as everyone uses paper.

It was the first proper direct tax put upon the colonists. It was called 'dangerous and unjustified'.

The colonials felt they were being taxed without having a representative in Parliament fighting their corner. (Taxation without Representation occurs a lot)

Colonials protested through assemblies and newspapers.

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The Virginia Resolves

29th May 1765

Not enforced until Autumn time.

Patrick Henry in the House of Burgesses introduced 7 resolutions attacking the Stamp Act.

On the 30th May Burgesses adopted 5 of his resolutions:

1.) The colonists possessed the rights of Englishmen

2.) Their rights were guaranteed by royal charter.

3.) They could be taxed only if they had proper representation.

4.) Colonists had the right to give their consent to their laws.

5.) The House of Burgesses had the right to tax Virginians ONLY.

After the colonies saw how Virginia had rejected it, other assemblies passed resolutions condemning the Act.

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The Stamp Act Congress

October 1765

In June 1765, Massachusetts House of Representatives thought it would be a good idea to have an inter colonial meeting to set out regulations to come to an agreement on what the colonies wanted

This was called the Stamp Act Congress and they met on October 1765

27 men from 9 colonies attended

They spent two weeks discussing/arguing/debating the matter and finally came to a set of 14 resolutions known as a 'Declaration of Rights and Grievances'. This showed the colonial view on the Stamp Act

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Burning of Effegies

14th August 1765

Effigie Definition: A rough model of a particular person, damaged or destroyed as a protest or expression of anger.

The people of Boston hung effegies (a bit like a pinata or a dummy) of Andrew Oliver and Bute from the Liberty Tree in Boston. Men stood by the tree and picked up fake/mock stamp duties.

Oliver's effigie was carried by the mob to his office. (This was rumoured to be the place where stamps were distributed) The mob tore down this bulding and used the wood to start a bonfire by Oliver's house.

Hutchinson attempted to calm down the mob, but was unsuccessful, he was welcomed with a lot of stones being thrown at him.

The mob then destroyed Oliver's house. He (Oliver) resigned as stamp distributer the next day.

This triggered mob action is many colonies, like Delaware, New Hampshire, Rhode Island etc. This caused all the stamp distributers in those areas to resign too ad they were scared for their lives.

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The Sons of Liberty

Autumn 1765

The Sons of Liberty was the name given to those who were directing the mob action. The Loyal Nine in Boston soon took the name Sons of Liberty too.

They originated in New York.

The group consisted of merchants, social elites like Sam Adams and shop owners. They focused on stopping the distribution of stamps, forcing officials to resign and just basic rabble rousing. 

As the crisis got worse they pleaded to the public not to but British goods.

31st October 1765 - 200 merchants in New York signed an agreement not to import goods from Britain until the Stamp Act was no more.

This boycott spread like a virus. Boston and Philadelphia soon boycotted too. 

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The Repeal of the Stamp Act

March 1766

July 1765 - Grenville was replaced by Rockingham (inexperienced) 

Many British MP's were horrified by the mob violence across the colonies, but they believed that if they were to repeal the stamp act it would be seen as weak.

Parliament also rejected the claim that the colonials did not have decent representatives to legislate for them. Parliament believed that MP's were just as willing to fight their corner than British peoples as it was in the best interest of 'Great Britian'.

HOWEVER, British merchants/manafacturers were scared by the boycott and organised a campaign for the repal of the Stamp Act.

Rockingham, with thanks to the merchants, decided to repal the Stamp Act.

William Pitt - "This kingdom has no right to lay a tax upon the colonies."

Many British officials believed that if Americans could escape this tax, then surely they could escape another one. This was a fear shared by many.

The Stamp Act was repealed by a total of 275 votes to 175 votes in Parliament.

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Reactions to the repeal of The Stamp Act

Sons of Liberty virtually disbanded.

The boycott of British goods no longer took place.

The big issue though, was the fact that the repeal meant that if Parliament did not have the right to tax Americans then they were pretty much denying Britain from governing them.

The Americans were demanding independence/self rule, rather than complete independence from Britain (yet anyway).

They wanted a relationship with the King only, rather than the troubles of parliament and MP's intefering 

The Stamp Act had now united the colonies. They gained vital lessons from this crisis. 

1.) They must be tough in defence of their liberties.

2.) British authority can be over thrown/defeated. 

3.) Many British politicians felt they needed to reassert more authority otherwise they would become independent by default.

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The Declaratory Act

March 18 1766

This stated that the colonies were subordinate (lower in rank/position/authority) to the Crown and Parliament of Great Britain and that Parliament had full authority to make laws.

This was in reaction to the repeal of the Stamp Act.

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Townshend Duties

May 1767

Chancellor of the Exchequer Charles Townshend implimented these duties.

He put duties on colonial items such as: Glass, wine, china, lead, paint, paper and tea.

As these were external duties, and fairly light, he believed that people could not object to them so they should pay them. 

An external tax is a tax levied on goods coming into the colonies, these are foreign goods. For example sugar from the Wrst Indies.

They would raise £40,000 a year.

Put in place to raise revenue in order to pay for British governers and judges salries.

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The Quartering Act

May 1765

The Quartering Act was put in place by Parliament and it stated that local governments of the colonies had to provide the British soldiers with any needed accommodation.

It also required citizens to provide food for any British soldiers in the area.

This was not met very happily, Americans felt like their privacy was being violated as they were under legal oligation to let British soldiers stay in their house and eat their food.

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The New York Restraining Act

March 1767

Under the terms of this Act the New York assemblies were prohibited from take legal action until it coincided with the Quartering Act.

This attempted to stop any real mob action or mischievous behaviour taking place as it had done in the past.

Reactions to Townshends measure:

  • Colonials were not sure if it was a violation of their rights, they were confused.
  • John Dickinson's famous 12 letters attacking Tonshends policies argued that Britain still did not have the right to tax them through internal or external taxes, regardless of the situation/outcome.
  • Some saw the measures of Townshend as a good thing and that they would make colonial governments less accountable for mistakes. 
  • Politically, they were not popular. Sam Adams/James Otis sent out a circular letter out, declaring that the measure were violating the principle of TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION.
  • It pleaded for colonies to take action.  7 Colonies quickly approved the letter.
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Economic Resistance

In 1768 the colonies organised yet another boycott of British goods.

Every colony had organised a boycott (except for New Hampshire) by 1769.

American housewives now would not serve British tea in their houses. 

Those who did not take part in the boycott, or broke the boycott, were threatened and then named and shamed by the community.  If merchants broke the boycott then mobs/crowds would smash their stalls/goods.

Many people who did not cooperate were faced with violence, and were 'Tarred and Feathered' which was being stripped naked, getting covered in hot tar and being rolled in feathers. This was a form of punishment for not uniting with the rebellion of the colonies.

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Problems in Boston

Ever since the American Board of Customs Commissioners were placed in Boston in November 1767, trouble had been brewing. They were an immediate target for the aggressive people of Boston.

There were far too few custom commissioners to stop smuggling and to keep peace. So they called upon the help of the British navy in June 1768. The navy captured a small boat tat was owned by John Hancock (a rich radical and popular figure in Boston).

This caused Bostonians to react, and they went to the customs house to show their aggression. This was in the form of a brawl with some custom officials. The custom commissioners had to take refuge on an island in Boston harbour to save themselves. 

The SONS OF LIBERTY now controlled Boston

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More Problems in Boston

James Otis and Sam Adams organised marches/events to keep up the campaign against the British. 

Royal officials were threatened and the house of custom commissioners was getting damaged on a regular basis. Governor Bernard (In Massachusetts) ordered troops to enter Boston to attempt to restore some order.

Boston heard about this in September 1768.

600 British troops arrived in Boston, they stayed in Boston to try and keep peace, although no fighting occurred (yet).

Problems with British troops being in Boston

  • Trying to house all the British troops was a struggle
  • Bostonians were harassed by British patrollers.officials (they were used to having as little to do with the British government as possible)
  • British soldiers (when off duty) looked for part-time jobs. They offered to work for less, which put many Bostonians out of work
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The Boston Massacre

5th March 1770

22nd Feb - Suspected customs informer kills an 11 year old boy during a riot. The Sons of Liberty turned the funeral into a political demonstration.

5000 residents of Boston went to the funeral.

2nd March - Rope factory workers in Boston attacked some British soldiers (redcoats)

5th March - The day the Massacre happened.

A small group of redcoats were guarding the customs house when they were attacked by a small mob with snowballs, yes, snowballs. (They were very hard apparently)

The redcoats shot at the crowd, killing FIVE.

Sam Adams proclaimed to the people of Boston that a massacre had occurred.

8 of the British soldiers were trialed, 6 were set free, the other 2 were found guilty of manslaughter (but were soon released)

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The Repeal of the Townshend Duties

April 1770

The British were troubled by the problems that had occurred in the colonies. They also thought that the Townshend duties just didn't make political sense

They were not raising a significant amount of money, and they were penalising British exports to the colonies. 

Lord Frederick North was the one who repealed it. (Townshend himself had died in September 1767)

He took the duties of every item except for tea, this was kept as everyone in cabinet voted that it should stay. Lord North saw it 'as a mark of the supremacy of Parliament'.

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The Years of Calm

From 1770-1773 nothing substantial happened, everything was pretty chilled.

  • Colonial imports had reached £9million (double what they were in (1768-1770).
  • Economic recovery was happening relatively quickly. 

There were a few problems however:

Anglo - Amercians:

  • Radicals were concerned that an Anglican Church might provide support for royal authority in the colonies. 
  • Boston were angry (no surprise there) that the Massachusetts assembly had been moved to Cambridge.
  • Hutchinson revealed that he was getting paid directly from the crown from duties payed by Americans on tea. 

The Gaspee Incident:

  • Colonials were smuggling tea instead of having to pay duties on it.
  • In June 1772, the revenue agencies caught the Gaspee and burnt it. (They got the crew out first)
  • Everyone involved was sent to England for trial.
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The Tea Act

May 1773

Attempted to save the East India Company from being bankrupt. Its aim was to relieve the financial stress of the company by permitting it to export tea to the colonies and distribute/retail it there.

Britain no longer had to pay duties on tea BUT America still did.

Britain believed that everyone would benefit from the new Tea Act:

  • Americans would pay less for tea as this would cause it to be cheaper.
  • East India Company would make money from sales.
  • Britain would benefit from increased duties. (win, win, win)

However, it would also cause some problems.

  • This threatened colonial merchants with a monopoly. 
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Reaction to the Tea Act

The Americans saw this as yet another attempt at parliamentary taxation.

Artisans soon threatened violence against those merchants importing East India Company tea. Tea sent to Philadelphia and New York was sent straight back to England. 

The Boston Tea Party

On the 28th November 1773 a ship (called Dartmouth) had docked in Boston harbour with 114 chests of East India Company tea.

Three ships were docked in the harbour by Dec 15th. Called Dartmouth, Eleanor and Beaver.

On the 16th December, 60 members of the Sons of Liberty, disguised as Indians, boarded the 3 ships docked in the harbour and chucked 342 chests full of tea in Boston harbour. (worth about £10,000)

Many British spectators gathered, yet they did nothing as they were scared of annoying the mob further. 

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The Coercive (Intolerable) Acts

The Coercive Acts, later named the Intolerable Acts, were 4 acts passed in Spring 1774 that attempted to punish Boston for constant rabble rousing (as Boston seemed to be the cause of all problems.)

The Coercive Acts were:

1.) The Boson Port Act: The port of Boston was to be closed to all ocean-going trade from 1st June until the Tea that they destroyed has been paid for.

2.) Massachusetts Government Act: Allowed the royal governor to appoint and remove civil officials. Also, town meetings could not be held without government permission. 

3.) The Impartial Administration of Justice Act provided for the transfer to England of murder trials in law-enforcement cases.

4.) A new Quartering Act gave greater authority to military commanders wanting to house their troops.

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American Reaction to the Coercive Acts


  • Some Americans were scared because if Britain could control/isolate Boston then surely they could do the same to anywhere else.
  • Many other Americans followed in Bostons footsteps in order to support them. In March 1774 some New Yorkers jumped on the ship 'Nancy' disposing of all the East India Company tea on board.


  • 13th May - Boston pleaded that all colonies boycott British goods until port act is lifted. This was known as the 'Solemn League'. 
  • Merchants did bot boycott as they knew it would harm them more than Britain. 
  • If Boston could not use their port then they were missing out on a large amount of trade.


  • Burgesses met on the 27th May and said they would reject the Boston Port Act.
  • The group also declared that 'an attack, made on one of our sister colonies, to compel submission to arbitrary taxes is an attack on all of British America and threatens the ruin of all'.
  • They wanted an inter-colonial congress.
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The Continental Congress

September 1774

Everyone colony except Georgia sent a delegate to Philadelphia to the first Continental Congress. Most of the delegates were of high social stature (Lawyers, planters)

The most influential were Richard Henry Lee/ Patrick Henry of Virginia and John/Sam Adams of Massachusetts.

  • September 17 - Suffolk Resolves (Declared the Coercive Acts were void and Massachusetts had to defend Boston)
  • 1st December - Non-importation of all British goods unless Coercive Acts were repealed.
  • A total ban on exports to Britain would start on September 10th 1775 (This gave farmers enough time to grow/sell final crops)
  • 14th October - Declaration of Rights And Grievances. (They noted that they had allegiance to the crown but denied that they were suppressed under Parliaments authority. They could also not do TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION)

The First Continental Congress came to an end on October 26th.

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Lexington and Concord

19th April 1775

14th April - Dartmouth sent a letter to Gage telling him to arrest the leaders of the Provincial Congress and use force when necessary.

18th April - Gage sent 700 men from Boston under Colonial Smith to capture rebels/provincial congress in Concord.

However - the Massachusetts militia were made aware of this attack by Paul Revere (Member of the Boston committee of safety).

19th April - British troops found their path swarmed by minutemen (America's last minute defence system) at Lexington.

  • 8 minutemen were killed. The British then pushed on to Concord (26km away)
  • The British were met with a larger swarm of men in Concord, more men died here. They destroyed the military stores but did not arrest anyone.
  • Smith took his men back to Boston.

By the time they had reached Boston (after suffering several attacks in the woods on their way home) 273 casualties had occurred and 73 men were killed within the British camp.

ResultsTransformed Political dispute between British/American into a military one

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The Second Continental Congress

10th May 1775

Met in Philadelphia

65 delegates from all 13 colonies attended.

John Hancock of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia were amongst the big new names who attended.

Aim was to ready themselves for battles.

  • Put quota on each colony to raise a Continental Army of 20,000 men
  • $2 million paper money would be issued to finance this.
  • George Washington would command the Continental Army
  • 6th July - Declaration of the Causes and Necessities of Taking up Arms. It stated that Americans would rather die than be enslaved .
  • 8th July - Olive Branch Petition.(a letter to King George III, asking him to attempt to prevent further measures to avoid a war of Independence - which would be a last resort)
  • King George would not even consider this Petition, as he did not want to hear appeals from illegal bodies. He declared the colonies to be in a state of rebellion on the 23rd August.
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The Battle of Bunker Hill

June 17th 1775

26th May - Howe, Clinton, Burgoyne arrived in Boston with some troops. Gage now had an army of about 65,000.

12th June - Dartmouth gave Gage instructions to announce that Massachusetts was in a state of rebellion. He said: 'to all who shall lay down their arms and return to the duties of peaceable subjects' (except Sam Adams/John Hancock)

17th June- Gage felt he needed to intervene as American forces looked set to occupy Bunker Hill (near Charleston)

It is called the Battle of Bunker Hill (because they wanted to stop American forced capturing it) but the battle actually took place at Breeds Hill, about 1km away.

  • Rebel force of 1500 men occupied Breeds Hill (near Bunker Hill) Gage was determined to dislodge them. 
  • General Howe, launched a frontal attack on the rebel defences.
  • 226 were killed and 828 were wounded. (America lost less than half of that)
  • It was the bloodiest and nastiest event of the whole war.
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George Washington

1732 - 1799 (Born in Virginia)

Took command of the Continental Army on July 2nd

He was met with 15,000 poorly trained/equipped/discipline/disorganised men.

They only had 50 cannons, little to no powder, and very few trained marksmen.

Washington had only commanded a maximum of 2000 men previously (In Ohio)

He removed incompetent officers.

Discipline was 'the soul of an army'.

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The Declaration of Independence

After 1775, the Americans really stepped up their attempts to become Independent. 

Publication of 'Common Sense' by Thomas Paine in January 1776.

  • Believed that previous events made independence the best option.
  • Attacked the British parliament and the concept of a monarchy.

Signs of Independence. 

  • Between April - July 1776 colonial bodies debated the positives and negatives of Independence.
  • They believed a vote was needed to see if it was a universal thought.
  • North Carolina, Rhode Island and Virginia all voted in favour of the independence, where as Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Maryland did not agree with the separation. (In a democratic vote amongst residents)
  • The decision was delayed and a committee was arranged in order to make a draft declaration of independence (11th June). It consisted of Jefferson, John Adams, Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston.
  • Delaware voted in favour of independence in June.
  • New York refused to make a decision until Congress had made a final decision.
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The Declaration of Independence (2)

  • 28 June - Jefferson gives a draft of the declaration to Congress
  • 9 Colonies voted in favour, the other 4 did not.
  • These were South Carolina/Pennsylvania/New York/Delaware (who were split)
  • 2nd July - Delaware voted in favour. South Carolina changed their mind. James Wilson of Pennsylvania changed his vote, which put the colony as a Yes for independence.
  • New York was still not getting involved, so 12/13 colonies agreed with independence so Congress took the plan forward! 
  • Declaration was proclaimed on JULY 4TH

The Declaration of Independence

  • The purpose of the declaration was to create a moral and legal reason to rebel.
  • Jefferson: 'all men are created equal'. This refers to every man having the same rights/opportunities with no class divides (which occur in Britain) 
  • American people had a right to change laws if it violated their rights.
  • Formally adopted on July 4th



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Thank you

Hope you found these helpful!

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Joel Peachey


Nice notes Benjamin






Enjoy them fellow students



these are so fecking bovvy bruv

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