November 14, 2005

What's An "Anglosphere Blog", Anyway?

Albion's Seedlings considers itself an "Anglosphere Blog", as do others such as Samizdata and Chicago Boyz. Unless you've been following the Anglosphere discussion closely in the blogosphere, (or read The Anglosphere Challenge), you might ask "So, what is an Anglosphere Blog, why should anyone choose that particular subset of humanity to identify themselves with, and why should anyone else care?" All good questions. Particularly now that we have a nice recommended permalink from the Prof I'll make a stab at those questions for the benefit of the Inquiring Reader.

The Anglosphere is the growing world network of English-speaking nations and people increasingly connected by electronic media, fast cheap air travel, and other modern developments. In that sense, it is a subset of globalization, but a globalization that is not happening smoothly, evenly, or at the same pace or degree in all directions at once. There are vectors, and the evidence continues to accumulate that participation in the cultural complex that includes speaking, writing and reading English, and sharing in the institutions, culture and history of the English-speaking world is an important one of those vectors.

At the same time, there is also more and more argument pointing to the conclusion that these paticular institutions and cultural characteristics of the Anglosphere are deep-seated and persistent. This in turn suggests that any set of solutions to the challenges faced in the Anglosphere nations now or in the future need to take into account the particular nature of our culture and institutions, for better and for worse. For this reason being aware of the new scholarship about Anglosphere history and institutions, and of its overall implications is not just a curiosity, it is something of significance to anybody who cares about problems and solutions.

So an Anglosphere blog is not just a blog written and published in English, or one in which people from different parts of the Anglosphere participate, although Seedlings does have that characteristic. It is a blog that has a consciously Anglospherist perspective -- basically, that when one of us writes "we", without further qualification , what is meant is "we peoples of the Anglosphere". When we write "our history", even if the particular writer is an American, it includes, say, events in the England of the ninth century AD, and even if it an English writer, it includes, for example, the events of the American Civil War.

The Anglosphere perspective is one that deliberately seeks links that have been downplayed by particular national narratives. We do not see the writing of the American constitution in Philadelphia as an act of "political creation science", as a sudden bolt out off the blue by the Jupiter-sized brains of the Founders, but rather as a point on an evolutionary continuum that looked back to the English revolution of 1688, to Magna Carta, and, thanks to Jefferson's and other founders' knowledge of Montesquieu, to the continuity of our constitutional tradition to the pre-Norman Conquest English.

At the same time we are interested in expanding the understanding of the Anglosphere beyond the sort of Anglo-Saxon sentimentalism of Cecil Rhodes' day. We are happy to discuss Mihir Bose's point that, for example, the British and the Muslims immigrants from South Asia already have a substantial shared history that is now as much a part of Anglosphere history as any other -- if it would only be taught. The entire relationship between India and the Anglosphere is a whole separate issue, particularly given the growing number of non-elite Indians who have begun to learn and use English spurred on by the opportunties of the information economy. We can talk about small nations assimilating to the Anglosphere, but when the full impact of India's engagement with the Anglosphere is understood, it is more likely that it will not be a question of assimilation, but of transformation of both sides. Exactly what the nature of these transformations will be one of the great questions of the twenty-first century. These are the sorts of questions that arise naturally on Anglosphere blogs, and to date, nowhere else.

Finally, I cannot speak for my co-bloggers here, but for me, it is a matter of picking your garden to tend, and deciding what its limits are to be. I could have decided to concern myself primarily with American events and topics, but the American national perspective has been so worked over that a fresh perspective is more likely to deliver useful insights. I could have tried to develop a global perspective, but in actual fact, the world is such a complex place that it is difficult to say anything about it that is not grossly overgeneralized and simplified. Global commentaries are so often driven to adopt some very simplistic and reductionist formula that the individual national situations become entirely lost as each situation is reduced conceptually to fit the formula.

Anglospherists differe from universalists by saying "we can't really come up with a quick formula that fits Mozambique and Iceland equally and usefully." We can say that stronger civil societies are freer and more prosperous, and we can even say "reducing public goods reduces the corruption of public processes", but we can't instantly come up with a formula that would tell how to rewrite a constitution to implement these insights. Certainly the IMF tried for a decade to tell Latin American and Eastern European nations how to pursue these worthy goals, but with very mixed results. I have some opinions about how they could have done better in, say, Argentina but I have no great confidence that had they taken my advice there they would have done any better. What keeps Anglospherists from trying to remake the entire world is mostly an awareness of how complex the whole thing is, and a corresponding reluctance to propose specific solutions without deep local knowledge. It's hard enough taking into account the real differences between the various Anglosphere nations, as must be done, which is why we tend to be big on seemingly-obscure but actually very relevant things like Canadian military history.

So the Anglosphere is our chosen garden, and I think we are beginning to harvest some fruits from it. Welcome to it.

Posted by James C. Bennett at November 14, 2005 06:17 PM

Well said.

I just thought I'd chime in on my I read an Anglosphere blog. I grew up in America (with summers in Canada) and have tried hard to learn some of the history and civic virtues my public school left untaught. I've always thought of myself as American, but having spent the last couple years conversing with hundreds from every nation online I've realized just how much I have in common with folks in England, Australia, etc.; characteristics and beliefs I do not have in common with my German ancestry. I even made a list of countries I'd be willing to live in other than the USA, and I realized they were all (and only) Commonwealth states. I thought 'how odd', but didn't know it was a common feeling.

I found Samizdata and Chicago Boyz first, but this blog has so far been a real gem. Now I can say "I am an American" comfortably, because I know that the folks I'm speaking with know I mean "American, but also more." Strange as that may sound, I think the number of people who consciously think of themselves as members of the Anglosphere are set slightly apart from their country-men who think of themselves first as "English" or "Canadian" and "Anglo" only second, third, or not at all.

I read this blog because here I am among country-men at last.

Posted by: Brock at November 14, 2005 07:37 PM

The History of Anglosphere is one of the most interesting and inspiring stories ever, that is why I blog about it.
I also agree that an anglosphere persepective helps me better understand my country. It also makes me charish it the more.
I still think that Churchill's "A History of the English Speaking Poeple" is one of the best works for anyone interested in the topic of the anglosphere. However, Jim's book I believe casts critical light as well. He draws so many previous writers together in an important way.
I discuss some great on line documents on blog here.

Posted by: Adams (Steph Houghton) at November 14, 2005 08:05 PM

As a devoted Anglophile with an intense admiration for the United States, I too am an Anglospherist. For me this convergence of home is a natural consequence of being Canadian, though a large minority of my compatriots (the ones continuously in power) have spent their lifework separating themselves from this reality. For those that don't know, I blog at The Monarchist as a defender of the British Crown Commonwealth and the English-speaking peoples.

Posted by: Michael J. Smith at November 14, 2005 08:57 PM

One other thing I would note, on the topic of why, say, Canadian military history, or some old book about the origins of the Constitution, are relevant. The history of the Anglosphere exists at the moment in fragments. It has not been conceived of as a whole, with very few exceptions. Churchill's book as Adams notes, is one cut at a pan-Anglospheric study. Others were done in the early 20th century, when there was a push in certain circles for an "Anglo-Saxon" union -- and I hope James McCormick, who has made himself an expert on this material, will share that knowledge on the blog in the future. The point is that the disparate pieces of the Anglosphere story need to be assembled. Also, this is not a vision that has academic a lot of academic cachet. Britain, for example, is often lumped into "Europe", which is seriously erroneous. So, we are constantly looking to assemble the scattered bricks and get a better understanding of the shape of the Anglosphere structure, past, present and future.

Posted by: Lex at November 14, 2005 10:35 PM

Michael, you might give people the URL for The Monarchist.

Posted by: Jim Bennett at November 14, 2005 11:37 PM

I started reading all these blogs because they teach me where I came from. My anglo cultural history which is strangely missing from all education here in the US.

I have obtained a real sense of what made me who I am from reading daily.

Posted by: jGeee at November 15, 2005 08:54 AM

Cheers, Jim. I run a team blog with contributors from the United States and the Crown Commonwealth. The Monarchist link can be found here.

Posted by: Michael J. Smith at November 15, 2005 10:02 AM

The commitment of Anglosphere countries to one another has never been so critical as it will be during these next ten years, and we are going to have to stick together. has a piece up derived from the brilliant Bat Ye'or's analysis of Eurabia (a term she invented).

France has been seeking for these last 30 or 40 years to compensate for its fast diminishing power and glory by courting the Arabs in a pitch to establish a Pan-European Pan-Arab superstate. They seem to have embarked on this programme of what will eventually become suicide dimensions out of petty-minded resentment of the rise of America and the Anglosphere. Rebecca posts a review on Dhimmiwatch of an article "The Legacy of Jihad", defining what is meant by the term Eurabia.

In what can only be diagnosed as terminal lunacy, there are now calls for a common European-Arab positions on everything - social, economic,commercial.

Of course, anything that hastens the demise of France as a world voice may cheer us in a mean-spirited way, but it is regrettable that they appear to be taking the rest of the continent with them. Surely the ancient democracies of Denmark, the Scandinavian countries and Holland have more in common with us than the French or the Arabs? But these treaties, never mentioned to the electorates, were arrived at decades ago, by stealth.

If the continent of Europe deepens its ties with the primitive world of Islam, we are in for a bumpy ride. We will prevail, but we may be in for a rough ride for 10 or 20 years.

Posted by: Verity at November 15, 2005 02:56 PM

I'd like to add that the Muslims in the Magreb, France's area of influence, are not advanced and they have not attained the level of sophistication of many Muslim immigrants to the United States.

France is the engine of making common cause and it is because France wants a Francosphere more than it wants to recognise the world as it is and work with it.

I have predicted before that the ancient N European democracies will hive off, leaving France and other Mediterranean European countries to make common cause with Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Libya. And possibly Lebanon and Egypt. And French W Africa. As most of them are Francophone, at least in part (second language), this will require that France take the leading role.

What is so appalling is, this is all in the name of glory for France. Against the might of the Anglosphere.

Posted by: Verity at November 15, 2005 05:17 PM

What is happening in the world, why is everyone becoming so nationalistic (even crypto-fascistic) obsessed with the color of their hair and taking pride in other bul&%it like beer and football?? What a shame, please wake up people, it's about time to forget the Ostrogoths and find a way for all peoples of the earth to live together happily.

Posted by: Yannis Sideris at December 21, 2005 11:12 AM
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