Ignacio Gallup-Diaz, Andrew Shankman, and David J. Silverman
Anglicizing America reevaluates the idea of Anglicization, a seminal theoretical model for the study of early American history. Anglicization explains the process through which the English colonies of the Americas emerged from their diverse beginnings to become increasingly more alike, expressing a shared Britishness in their political and judicial systems, material culture, economies, religious systems, and engagements with the empire. Anglicization hinges on two powerful ironies: first, that the thirteen mainland colonies had never been more British than they were on the eve of their War of Independence from Britain; and, second, that this shared Britishness, rather than a sense of American distinctiveness, enabled those colonies to make common cause in the Revolution and the creation of the early Republic.
This compelling, synthetic idea first appeared in the scholarship of John Murrin in the 1960s and has since inspired a host of the most important books in the early American field, including Richard Bushman's King and People in Provincial Massachusetts, Richard R. Johnson's Adjustment to Empire, T. H. Breen's Marketplace of Revolution, Frank Lambert's Inventing the Great Awakening, and Brendan McConville's The King's Three Faces. It has also drawn retorts from those who have argued that the colonies were becoming more particularly American on the eve of the Revolution, a claim recently articulated by Jon Butler in his Becoming America. Regardless of where one stands in the debate, any scholar interested in the early modern empire and the American Revolution must contend with the concept of Anglicization.
The early twenty-first century is an opportune time to revisit the idea of Anglicization. For the past thirty years, early American historians have been drifting away from the traditional centerpiece of the field—the thirteen mainland British colonies and their advance to revolution and nationhood—toward topics that their predecessors usually treated only tangentially. These themes include the British Caribbean, Native Americans, slavery, transatlantic migrations, and other European colonies. Recent scholarship sees colonial America not as the prologue to the United States but instead as a convergence and clash of many peoples and imperial powers across the hemisphere over the course of three centuries. New analytical frameworks have arisen in turn. One framework posits the existence of an early modern Atlantic world connecting the peoples of Western Europe, West Africa, the Caribbean, and the eastern coasts of North, Central, and South America. Another model calls for a continental history of North America centered on Indian country and contests between the various European powers for Indian alliances and resources. These approaches have immeasurably enriched the field by expanding its geographical and thematic range, but the multiplication of topics has led many scholars and students to wonder if Early America remains a coherent field of study.
This quandary is a primary reason for renewed discussion of the Anglicization concept. There is pent-up scholarly demand to restore attention to the American Revolution's origins, events, and outcomes, as evidenced by the McNeil Center for Early American Studies conference, "The American Revolution Reborn," held in spring 2013, which drew a larger audience of scholars and the general public than any other event of its kind in recent memory. Concerns over fragmentation in early American studies make this a ripe moment to explore the applicability of the concept of Anglicization to current scholarly interests such as the Atlantic world and American Indian history. Bringing the concept of Anglicization to these areas of scholarly inquiry invites many new questions.
To what degree did Anglicization shape Britain's Caribbean colonies, and how did that process influence the Caribbean colonies' response to the American Revolution? Did the French and Spanish colonies also become more like their parent societies over time, and does the answer help to explain their independence movements in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries? How did American Indian engagement with the British Empire, British material goods, the British market, and British missionaries shape their contests with British colonists? Might one refer to some Indians as Anglicizing too? For excellent reasons, there is no turning back to a time when early American history focused squarely on Anglo-American people and the colonies that became the United States. This volume does not take such a reactionary position, nor does it contend that the process of Anglicization applies to the colonial histories of other imperial powers. Yet highlighting Anglicization will refocus scholarly attention on issues that promise to bring greater coherence to the field. These issues include how the British mainland and Caribbean colonies fit together within a single British imperial system; the extent to which Anglo-American colonists, Indians, and African slaves shared experiences amid their profound differences; and how the early republican United States managed to endure in the absence of a well-developed national identity and in the face of staggering social and political divisions.
Anglicizing America is divided into four parts designed to introduce readers to the theme of Anglicization and then explore its applicability to the colonial, revolutionary, and early U.S. national periods. Part I, "Anglicization," opens with a concise 1974 essay by John M. Murrin that defines the idea and shows how it can be used to explain the development of the British colonies, the coming of the American Revolution, and the consolidation of the early Republic around the federal Constitution. The subsequent essay by Andrew Shankman traces how Murrin developed the Anglicization concept over the course of forty years of scholarship in conversation with the emergent trends of the field. Shankman argues that Anglicization was a vital process intimately connected to the momentous changes that England (and then Britain) experienced between the Exclusion Crisis and the Hanoverian succession. The long process of establishing a Glorious Revolution settlement that addressed the religious, constitutional, and financial conflicts of the fractured English seventeenth century allowed eighteenth-century Britain to impose a new degree of imperial order that dramatically shaped its colonial possessions. England/Britain itself underwent Anglicization during the formative years of its "long eighteenth century," and its North American colonies, in diverse ways, followed suit.
Part II, "Empire," explores how Anglicization illuminates the histories of African slaves, Native Americans, and military affairs, which have been of peripheral interest to most subsequent Anglicization scholars, although not to Murrin. Simon P. Newman's essay situates the development of plantation slavery in both the Caribbean and the mainland colonies within English labor practices, suggesting that American slavery was not such a sharp break with English methods of labor coercion. In doing so, Newman shows how uncovering the transmission of English influence can stretch and, to some extent, redefine the idea of Anglicization. For Murrin, Anglicization was a process of the eighteenth century, and at its core it remains so in this volume. Yet Newman shows that being English mattered a great deal in the initial decades of the empire, well before the most intense period of Anglicization. The English enslaved others in English ways, providing a way for what, at first glance, appears to have been a very un-English institution to play a central role as the slave societies of British North America began aggressively to imitate variants of English politics and culture during the eighteenth century.
William Howard Carter's essay discusses how English expectations shaped imperial relations with the Iroquois League. Carter considers the implications when a quintessential early modern state found its ability to influence a nonstate people to be quite limited. Geoffrey Plank's essay closes Part II by discussing how colonial British societies increasingly relied on Anglicizing ideas regarding military preparedness and action to deal with adversaries, especially Native peoples, who would not yield to British aspirations.
In Part III, "Revolution," Nancy L. Rhoden and Jeremy A. Stern examine Anglicization and the movement toward independence in the South and New England. Rhoden traces the conflicts between Anglicans and dissenting Protestants in Virginia and shows how Anglicization could function both as a unifier and as a divider within the empire. Stern provides a careful examination of the eight election sermons delivered in Massachusetts during the Townshend Acts crisis and explores how a thorough embrace of British ideals produced a revolutionary political culture and sensibility in conflict with the British state.
In Part IV, "Republic," David J. Silverman discusses how a shared commitment to white American racism was essential to the thirteen colonies' decision to revolt against Great Britain and band together to form a new nation, a development that he characterizes as a distinct Americanizing trend overlapping with and sometimes reinforcing the process of Anglicization. Essays by Denver Brunsman and Anthony M. Joseph explore the lingering effects of Anglicization in the early Republic. Anglicization merged with an intense postrevolutionary preoccupation with Britain. This preoccupation ranged from revulsion to qualified embrace as Britain began to stand as a bulwark against the violence of revolutionary France. The complex attitudes toward Britain, so stimulated by Anglicization and revolution, influenced central policy questions in the early Republic such as the proper way, if indeed there was one, to build a navy and how, whether, and when to tax the nation's citizens.
In the "Conclusion," Ignacio Gallup-Diaz follows the insight of the concept of Anglicization and contextualizes the various local events and phenomena addressed by the authors by placing them in conversation with larger structural frameworks. While it cannot provide a single explanatory path, model, or route, Anglicization does help us look at a hemisphere over a long span of time and understand and explain the complex processes at work—those that enhanced systemic coherence and those that drove the system to disorder and disintegration. Anglicization focuses on local communities while also exploring their embeddedness within larger structural systems. Gallup-Diaz examines one of Anglicization's core insights: that by the eighteenth century the British Atlantic world had become a complex multinodal network. In addition he underscores the connections between Anglicization and certain interpretive tendencies present in other scholarly disciplines.
Anglicizing America owes a special debt to John Murrin. The editors and authors, all students of Murrin, have long understood his seminal role in shaping the field of early American history. Murrin is both a brilliant historian and the consummate historians' historian. It is our hope that Anglicizing America will allow our friends, colleagues, and fellow laborers in the field to appreciate, as we have long done, the profound impact and achievement of our friend and mentor John M. Murrin.