We all live the histories that produced us. Gilbert Imlay’s life took shape in the unfolding of two dominant historical narratives. One is a story of war and con- ict, played out on a regional, national and transnational stage; the other, a story of dissent and diaspora, written into a family of emigrants and settlers. From both he inherited an awareness that harmony is only discord contained, settlement but displacement delayed. Too much history can be a bad thing; the eighteenth century had so much history, it either overwhelmed people, or it released them – from the local, the personal, the here-and-now. For Imlay, speculation, risktaking and rootlessness were the stu of life – the same stu history is made of. Citizens of the world are not born – they are ineluctably made in historical experience. Gilbert Imlay was such a citizen.