Park Research Post 8

Within the realm of interpretivism, I am interested in studying the elite’s discourses on Anglo-American relations at the end of the 19th century because I want to understand the radical change and generation of an Anglo-American identity. With this, I want to help my reader understand how a newly constructed identity of Anglo-Saxon supremacy helped redefine Anglo-American relations but converged toward a racist ideology.

I decided upon Anglo-American relations at the end of the 19th century since the two parties went under a rather significant change (from fighting two wars in quick succession to becoming close allies) over the course of 150 years. I focused on qualitative primary sources of those who I saw as being intellectually or culturally significant within Britain and the US at the time of Anglo-American rapprochement. Instead of drawing upon more presidential sources and speeches (as I had done for previous research posts), I branched toward elites with influence, but not direct political power.

The first source I read was by the well-known Scottish-American business magnate, Andrew Carnegie. His 1893 piece, The Reunion of Britain and America: A Look Ahead, promoted what he described as “a race confederation” between the United Kingdom and the United States.[1] Initially, he cited documents before and during the early stages of the American war for independence, attempting to show British loyalism among the disgruntled states and the eventual founding fathers.[2] The selection of texts seems to simplify the complexity of American national identity in order to promote Carnegie’s vision of an Anglo-Saxon “race confederation”. Within the text, there is a great deal of emphasis on the racial continuity between the two states, stating that “In race—and there is a great deal in race—the American remains three-fourths purely British…” and that “substantially all of the remainder, though not strictly British, is yet Germanic”.[3] These overt statements of race and blood construct a very specific and exclusive definition of an American. It excludes those from non-Germanic ancestry and millions of African-Americans, all of whom were legally American. Despite this, Carnegie later praises the action President Lincoln took thirty years prior in signing the Emancipation Proclamation. This suggests he is fully aware of the racial composition of the country but simply does not count them within this larger Anglo-American identity. Further analysis would include other American sources to examine the similarity and dissimilarity within the discourse of Anglo-American rapprochement.

Next, I examined a piece written by leading British jurist and legal scholar, Albert Venn Dicey. His 1897 essay, A Common Citizenship for the English Race, also spoke of a “reunion of English people”.[4] Dicey proposed a form of common citizenship or “isopolity” between Americans and Brits.[5] The concept of isopolity itself is interesting since I have only ever seen it when describing classical societies like Rome and the city-states of Ancient Greece. This, while subtle, seems to indicate a certain braggadocio and belief in their own superiority. However, the political aspect of isopolity differs from Carnegie’s view of Anglo-American reunion, which is more focused on the creation of a uniform identity. Despite this, Dicey also relies heavily on this language of racial superiority, describing the “English race”, its “common nationality” and a responsibility to “permanently secure the peace of a large portion of the world”.[6] However, most of the essay explains how such a reunion would be legally feasible and relies heavily upon the legal codes of each country to effectively argue this.

If I were to continue with this methodology, I would focus more on this language of racial purity and how this continued or changed up leading into the United State’s involvement in World War I and II. This exploration into the racist side of Anglo-American relations can reveal domestic insecurities, the concentration of power within the Anglo-Saxon population, and the elites who stood to gain the most from Anglo-American unity.

[1] Andrew Carnegie. “The Reunion of Britain and America: A Look Ahead.” LSE Selected Pamphlets, (January 1, 1893), 12.

[2] Ibid, 4-6.

[3] Ibid, 9.

[4] Albert Venn Dicey. “A Common Citizenship for the English Race.” The Contemporary Review 71, (January 1, 1897), 475.

[5] Ibid, 457.

[6] Ibid, 465-467.

3 thoughts on “Park Research Post 8

  1. Hi Jordan! I think this sounds like a really interesting interpretivist study. However, one thing to keep in mind is that the word “Anglo” has a lot of different connotations and isn’t the same thing at being “British”. Being British could include being Scottish at that time. Admittedly my knowledge of Scottish-English racial relations is mostly limited to the Jacobite Uprising and not the end of the 19th century, but from what I know of the 1740s, a Highland Scot wasn’t considered a part of an elite racial breed, nor were they considered Anglo (important to differentiate between Lowland Scots, who were considered more “English” as they mostly sided with them during the Jacobite Uprisings in the 1700s). Anyways, I just thought that might be an important technicality to look into–it might be best just to focus on England (versus the entirety of Britain). Or, if internal British discourse really interests you, you could examine how the identity of being “British” has been constructed. Dr. Boesenecker probably knows more about it than I do and could be a good resource.
    Back on to your actual project proposal, I also think it might make more sense to examine the racial discourses on one ethnic or racial group, since I would suppose that the discourses surrounding the Irish would be different than the discourses surrounding those of African-descent. Looking at the racial discourses surrounding the Irish in England and the US and how they interact could be particularly interesting. Overall, this sounds like a really interesting topic (which is why I wrote this long comment:)

    • A fair point about the conflict between the Scotts, Irish, Welsh, and English. What shocked me though was Carnegie’s essay has a whole part that rejects these national divisions and insists that a Scotsman or Irishman is as equally a part of this greater identity as an Englishman or even an American.
      To me, it seems like Carnegie and other elites (perhaps primarily English elites as opposed to Welsh or Irish elites) at the time were attempting to unite English-speaking whites under the name of an “Anglo-Saxon” race, regardless of whatever baggage the term Anglo might bring along.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. You’re off to an excellent start here, Jordan! Alexia has also given you a number of excellent suggestions, so be sure to keep thinking about her comments/questions as you continue your research. You might work on being a bit more precise with respect to the particular layer of discourse — government/official? media? popular? — that you are proposing to analyze. I would also recommend reading Ido Oren’s “The Subjectivity of the “Democratic” Peace: Changing U.S. Perceptions of Imperial Germany.”[1] Oren examines a very similar type of question with respect to US-German relations, and his analysis might give you some ideas as you think about how to organize your own research in this methodology. Keep reading and researching and you should be in good shape!

    [1] Ido Oren, “The Subjectivity of the “Democratic” Peace: Changing U.S. Perceptions of Imperial Germany,” International Security 20, no. 2 (Autumn 1995): 147-184

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