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The Anglosphere and the Future of Liberty

What is the link between English culture and language with freedom and liberty?

by
Roger Kimball

Bio

October 6, 2013 - 7:00 am
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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.”

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Top Rated Comments   
" Mark Steyn cites the deliciously awful spectacle of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown endeavoring to come up with a patriotic British equivalent of Independence Day for Americans. What did his government turn up? July 5, the anniversary of the inauguration of National Health Service, a fitting symbol of British surrender of personal freedom for the sake of a spurious security.”

All of Europe, except Turkey, should have as their number one yearly day - Charles Martel Day.
50 weeks ago
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All Comments   (16)
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49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
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49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
MB4, but how many of the current population of Europe know of Charles Martel OR King Jan III Sobieski, and mores the pity. Those two saved Europe from Islam conquest in 732 and 1683 respectively. The first at Tours, France and the second at Vienna. By the way, the battle of Vienna was a 9/11 before the New York attack, lest y'all forget. Pshaw, y'all ALWAYS forget.

Coeurmaeghan in Twentynine Palms, CA
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Interesting thoughts, Roger, but if I may make a suggestion, when it comes to the sustained support for property rights (the base on individual rights) and parliamentary system dedicated to these rights, read Richard Pipes. He has an interesting explanation in his book Property and Freedom.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hmm. "Why the English-speaking nations will lead the way in the twenty-first century..." I'm not being glib here, but will this still include much of the United States? Considering that Spanish is the primary language in huge swaths of metropolitan California, Texas, and Florida, I see a disconnect in the making. And if the concept of "private property" is at the heart of the liberties and freedoms enjoyed by the Anglosphere, it should be pointed out that there is no verb in Spanish for "to own." Verb mind you, and that is key.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Perhaps someone should inform the Indians that they're part of the Anglosphere.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Something is wrong in the USA when someone like me, who is a dyed in the wool, diehard military supporter and retiree, one who adores our kickbuttocks military machine, starts thinking that people like General Alexander, of current NSA fame, should be brought up on charges of treason and conspiring against the American people.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I hear ya'. I've found myself rooting for Putin lately. Ha!
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Third Rome doctrine made its rounds on the European continent for a while, never really taking root much of anywhere except Russia. There was something like this messianic fervor in the early Puritans who endeavored to make America the shining "city on a hill." Besides the cliche "the sun never sets on the British Empire" none of that really seem to catch on in the UK. The great poets picked up on the theme somewhat in Kipling's "Song of the English" and then there's Blake's poem "Jerusalem":
I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land.

But really the self-depreciating English seem embarrassed about such high-flung notions most of the time. I suspect they were most relieved at passing the torch of world security to the USA.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
This precious stone ... this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.

I think that idea can be extended to the happy language the English gave the world along with the idea that subjects have to put limits to the King's power.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Terrific column. Thank you!
50 weeks ago
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