The Anglosphere and the Future of Liberty
What is the link between English culture and language with freedom and liberty?
October 6, 2013 - 7:00 am
A few days ago, The New Criterion and London’s Social Affairs Unit hosted a one-day conference about the future of the “special relationship” between Britain and the United States, with special reference to the contributions of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in maintaining that filiation. It was a jolly and informative convocation. Among the participants were John O’Sullivan, a close advisor to Margaret Thatcher, and Peter Robinson who drafted Reagan’s famous “Mr. Gorbachev-Tear-Down-This-Wall” speech. Other paper-givers included Daniel Hannan, a conservative, euro-sceptic member of the European Parliament for southern England; Douglas Carswell, a eurosceptic MP for Claxton; and Keith Windschuttle, the historian editor of Australia’s best cultural magazine, Quadrant. If I am counting correctly, this was the twelfth such collaboration between these two organizations. Our stated purposed is to enhance and strengthen the transatlantic conversation on such subjects as limited government, individual liberty, and the the constellation of values adumbrated by the word “Anglosphere.”
What is the Anglosphere? I’m not sure who coined the term, but it was James Bennett, another participant, whose book The Anglosphere Challenge: Why the English-Speaking Nations Will Lead the Way in the Twenty-First Century gave the word currency. As the title suggests, it is an optimistic, or at least an upbeat book. (Dr. Pangloss was an optimist, but somehow was always a source of gloom.) If the 19th century was preeminently the British century in world affairs (and it was), the 20th century belonged to the United States. And going forward? “If the English-speaking nations grasp the opportunity,” Bennett wrote at the end of his book, “the twenty-first century will be the Anglosphere century.”
“If.” A tiny word that prompts large questions. What were those opportunities that needed grasping? How sure was our grip? And who, by the way, were “we”? What was this Anglosphere that Bennett apostrophized? Winston Churchill’s opus on the English-speaking peoples, published in four volumes in the mid-1950s, principally included Britain, Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. He commenced his story in 55 B.C., when Julius Caesar first “turned his gaze” upon Britain, and concluded as Victoria’s long reign ended at the turn of the 20th century. By the time Andrew Roberts extended Churchill’s work in his magisterial A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900 (2006), the Anglosphere had expanded to include Commonwealth Caribbean countries and, more to the point, India with its 1.1 billion people and the burgeoning capitalist dynamo that is its economy. The inclusion of India shows, as Roberts argues, that the defining quality of the Anglosphere is not shared race or ethnicity but shared values. It is a unity, as Madhav Das Nalapat put it in his contribution to an earlier TNC-SAU collaboration, a unity of ideas, “the blood of the mind” rather than “the blood of the body.” Its force is more intangible than physical—set forth primarily in arguments rather than armies—but no less powerful for that. The ideas in play are so potent, in fact, that they allow India, exotic India, to emerge as an equal partner with Britain and the United States at “the core of a twenty-first-century Anglosphere.”