Tim Stanley: Why is There No Such Thing as an 'English-American'?

Roundup: Historians' Take
tags: Telegraph (UK), England, Tim Stanley, St. George's Day, Englishness

Dr. Tim Stanley is a historian of the United States. His biography of Pat Buchanan is out now. His personal website is www.timothystanley.co.uk and you can follow him on Twitter @timothy_stanley.

...I’ve met Italian Americans, Croatian Americas, Latin Americans, Scottish Americans. But, strangely, no one has ever identified themselves to me as an English American. The absence of conscious Englishness in America reflects the absence of conscious Englishness in England. As Phil Johnston writes, we don’t celebrate St George’s Day because we don’t really celebrate our own identity. Perhaps it’s to do with the peculiar politics of Britain, where multiculturalism has rendered English ethnicity almost a taboo subject (the far Right has much to blame for this – whenever I see a St George’s flag flying I presume I’ve wandered into some skinhead compound). It might also be to do with the modesty that comes from knowing that we’ve already won the lottery of life – after all, it’s vulgar to boast. But the fact stands that while Scottishness and Irishness are bold and globally exported ethnic brands, Englishness is without easy definition.

That’s nowhere more true than in the US. I’ll get hate mail for writing this, but the American Revolution was essentially a civil war between Britons with a heavy English influence. George Washington’s folks were from Sulgrave and Benjamin Franklin’s from Ecton. Although there was a great backlash against the Englishness of the Redcoats, Englishness lived on through blood and the Episcopalian inheritance. Consider the brilliant episode of The Simpsons when Marge imagines herself visiting heaven and finds it segregated between Catholic and Protestant. The Catholic half is a mix of Mexican piñata party and Irish punch-up. The Protestant half is a pastiche of middle-class Englishness that the Brits would instantly recognise: polo-shirted fellows playing tennis and drinking martinis. The Simpsons makes it clear that its emotional sympathy is with the liberated Catholics, but it’s interesting to note how cultural elitism has a heavy English accent. Even today, conspiracy theorists are keen to point out that Bush and Clinton are distantly related to Queen Elizabeth II – the lizard diaspora goes a long way....

Read entire article at Telegraph (UK)

comments powered by Disqus