The Anglo Revolutions

By Razib Khan | July 29, 2010 3:20 am

51TZ-cnJTrL._SS500_Over my lifetime in the United States there has been a shift toward a set of values which emphasize diversity, understood as being expressed along a few particular parameters: racial, sexual and ethnic. Part of the project is obviously concrete: increased representation of various segments within American society at the commanding heights of institutions and in positions to operate levers of power. But part of the project is intellectual and didactic. In the domain of history the past is reshaped and mined to create myths which serve as foundations for our understanding of how we got here, and why we value what we value. It is true that some reject the Founding Fathers as “Dead White Males,” and repudiate the history of the United States, and damn America. But others see in aspects of the founding project, and in the lives of the founders of the American republic, the roots of the modern liberal democratic order. Even the progenitors of multiculturalism. I would say that the latter position, of reappropriation and reinterpretation, is the dominant mode. But it is clearly myth-making. Those who repudiate the foundation of the American republic as a project of white supremacy, Eurocentrism, and ethnocentrism, have a great deal of reality to draw upon. The personal correspondence of men who were self-identified and perceived radical liberals for their time, such as Thomas Jefferson, attest to this reality.


And yet one can go too far in emphasizing this component of 18th century America. One hundred years ago, in 1910, the Zeitgeist was very different from that of today. The American founding was seen as a project of the unfolding arc of evolution, the fruition of the genius of the Nordic race. In this reading America was a fundamentally white Protestant republic rooted in the supremacy and domination of the white race over the colored races. Again, this goes too far, and reframes the late 18th century American elite as proponents of a scientific view of racial competition which derives in part from a post-Origin of Species inflected perception of the nature of things, and the rising tide of white supremacy which peaked in the years after 1900 with the apogee of colonialism. Certainly the American founders would have been understood to be racist today, but as outlined in works such as What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848, the reality is that an explicitly race-based republic crystallized in the first half the 19th century in North America with the rise of democratic populism. As states removed property qualifications for voting, they enacted racial bars which had not existed prior. It is an interesting comment on the complexity of changing norms in this period that Martin van Buren’s vice president, Richard Mentor Johnson, was known to have had a common-in-law wife who was mixed-race (and two daughters by her whom he acknowledged). Van Buren’s Democratic party was the primary driver of “white male suffrage,” which expanded voting rights to those males who were without means, but barred voting rights in many states from non-whites. It helped transform the self-conception of the American republic to that of the American democracy. These two dynamics, the broadening of suffrage to most American males, combined with a more explicit and legally sanctioned commitment to white supremacy, causes interpretive tensions for 20th century American liberal historians. This seems clear in works such as Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s The Age of Jackson, which attempted to trace American liberalism back to this period. So it is somewhat uncomfortable for him that it was among some of the older aristocratic conservative Federalists that one could find objection to a binary republic where color was one’s passport to equality. This is not because the conservatives favored racial equality as such, but rather preferred a more complex hierarchy and a set of values which included race, class, education and breeding, as the judge of a man. Such old republic conservatives may not have accepted a black man as an equal on the grounds of race, but they may not have acceded to the contention that all white men were superior in nature to all black men. They would not have necessarily fallen under the class of whites which Malcolm X referred to in regards to their attitudes toward blacks with education. David Cannadine covers the same attitude on race among the British masses in Ornamentalism, but in this instance the aristocracy managed to retain more cultural influence, and race did not overwhelm class. The maharajahs of India may have been black, but they were still aristocrats who were of a particular elevated station which demanded respect, if not necessarily deference.

All this is to highlight the fact that what we perceive of history is filtered through the light of our normative frameworks, and in the process we miss much of what once was. Modern perceptions of white American racism are so strong that I suspect Richard Mentor Johnson’s private life would surprise us. As would the fact that Herbert Hoover’s vice president was nearly half Native American in ancestry. This is the sort of thing which I refer to as the “dark matter” or “dark history,” dynamics and phenomena which echo down to our age, but are forgotten because of the presuppositions which we promote today because of ideological preferences.* In the context of the United States of America one of the most important and overlooked threads of dark history are the separate Anglo-Saxon streams of settlement in the American colonies prior to independence. As outlined in Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America they were the Puritans of New England, the southwest British gentry and their retainers in the lowland South, the Scots-Irish in the American uplands, and finally, the polyglot mix of Midlanders and other Europeans in the Middle Colonies. The thesis is that these patterns can explain much of the details of American history after the Revolution, and down to the present day. I have suggested that differences between Mormon and Southern white political conservatism can be traced back to different attitudes toward communitarianism on the part of New Englanders and Southerners. Mormonism was at its root a Yankee religion, with most of its early acolytes and followers derived from New England or Greater New England (western New York and the Western Reserve of Ohio).

This sort of detail of distinction is lost in our discussion of American ethnicity. The idea that whites, or at least “non-ethnic” whites, “have no culture,” gets at the root of it. What is assumed, what is background, what is default, is not deemed worthy of history. When it comes to Anglo history and culture the commanding heights remain of interest, William Shakespeare, the King James Bible, the Magna Carta, etc. But much of the more mundane detail is of little general interest compared to the more salient identities of race, religion, and such. I believe this causes real pragmatic problems. White Angl-Americans from the North may find Southern whites of an alien kind, lacking community spirit, belligerent, but they have no essentialist explanation which can explain this as a product of a different historical experience, because this aspect is not emphasized in our minds. But the greater propensity to violence by Southern whites was noted by Northerners as far back as the 1840 Census, where the data were fertile fields from which Northern polemicists drew in frame their attacks on the morals and character of the Southern states. Northern whites may seem to be liberals driven to bizarre and irrational flights of fancy to Southerners, but this is nothing new, as far back as the early 19th century Southern observers noted the Northern fascination with “-isms.” Many of the deep chasms in American history go far back indeed, and impact those of us whose families arrived far later. As a South Asian whose formative understanding of American history was derived from a Northern perspective, it is peculiar to talk to South Asians who grew up in the Deep South who have a more “nuanced” view of the Civil War (taking my hat off of objectivity, the descendants of those who arrived in the South after the Civil War, and are not black, do not always understand that the Southerners were traitors, and that the side wearing blue were the Good Guys).

But why be Americo-centric? We can widen the canvass out far more. America was not the only settler society. Canada, Australia and New Zealand were also settled by British. South Africa and the highlands of Kenya were also settled by the British. The differences and similarities between the British settler societies can tell us a great deal about the history of the English-speaking people, and therefore the history of the world up to this point. That is the subject matter of Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Anglo-World, 1783-1939. This is a history of migration, of migrants, and of the rise of the Anglo-Saxon civilization. Numerically in 1780 there were 12 million English speakers. In 1930 there were 200 million! Obviously not all of that was due to demographic growth, but much of it was. In New England we know that the vast majority of the ancestry of the hundreds of thousands who were alive on the eve of the Revolutionary War were descended from the 20,000 or so who arrived in the 1630s. The fecundity of New Englanders was legendary in the 19th century, as they spilled out of the east and overran western New York, and later the Great Lakes region. This was the long boom of the Anglo peoples. But it was also the era of the busts. And it was the era of unstable equilibria.

The core thesis of Replenishing the Earth is that the rise of the Anglo societies has been characterized by a series of booms, busts, and often-times recoveries from those busts as regions and populations settle into a quiescent phase. In this the author, James Belich, suggests that the Anglo people prefigure the dynamics which are operative in the world today, the post-Malthusian reality of presumed & expected economic growth, of sunny futures, and a Whiggish sense of the possibilities of what could be, what will be. He describes nothing less than a revolution of imagination, which subsequently drove the material changes we see around us.

A bigger context which hangs over this are debates about the economic lift-off (sometimes termed the “Industrial Revolution”) which has characterized much of the world over the past 200 years. The noncontroversial part is this: some societies over the last 200 years have developed to the point where they are not characterized by uniform subsistence, and have a modicum of mass affluence. Before 1800 no society had mass affluence, and all societies were Malthusian. Yes, wealthy people existed, but generally they lived off the labor and output of the productive masses, who managed to barely get by. In Replenishing the Earth the author notes that some economic historians believe that all of Europe as a whole engaged in this lift-off simultaneously, while others suggest that Britain was first, with Belgium second. He favors the idea that Britain was first, and that other European societies were later additions to the club of wealthy nations. Like Greg Clark in A Farewell to Alms James Belich indicates that there was something special about Britain, and England in particular, and like Clark he rejects purely institutional explanations. Additionally, he also seems skeptical of the idea that England’s position near North America (resources and land) along with its strategic coal reserves can be the total explanation for its lift-off. Though the description of the phenomena which led to the Anglo-world is crisp, a series of booms, busts and static phases in sequence, the root of the historical dynamic seems rather vague. The best I can come up with is that the English were the first society to reconceptualization the possibilities of the future, and engage in settlement activities which might seem irrational or foolhardy in the past.

The extent of the booms shocked even me, in part because I was only aware of the American experience. In Replenishing the Earth there is a distinction between incremental endogenous growth (e.g., New England in the 17th and 18th century), and explosive booms driven by exogenous migration (e.g., New England in the 1840s and 1850s). I had not thought in detail about the difference between these two, but the distinction is important in hindsight. One of the more surprising things to me about American history before the independence of the colonies and the emergence of the United States of America is that it was not always easy to draw migrants to the New World. Now, one might not be surprised during the initial decades, but throughout the 17th century the flow of migration was halting, and generally low. The massive burst into New England in the early 17th century was famously driven by religious conflict in England, as an anti-Puritan faction was ascendant. Much of the migration actually reversed with Oliver Cromwell’s victory, as many Puritans removed themselves back to the motherland, but enough remained to serve as the core of a growing set of colonies who slowly pushed themselves into the frontier through native population growth. The situation in Canada was famously more difficult, as attracting settlers was nearly impossible. Part of the reason was probably that unlike Great Britain the French banned the emigration of religious dissenters. The large enterprising French Protestant minority in the 17th century probably would have left for the New World if they had had liberty to do so, but settlement in Canada was limited to Roman Catholics. As it is, many French Protestants settled in the British colonies. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s mother was from such a French Protestant family. They had settled in Calvinist New Netherlands early on.

After independence, and to a lesser extent in the decades before independence, many immigrants did come to the United States. But note how variant the numbers were by year.

fig1

Many of these variations correlate with economic booms & booms. But one of the most fascinating hypotheses proffered in Replenishing the Earth is that migration and population growth often preceded economic booms we read about. An example of this is the California Gold Rush. The author asserts that migration had already increased in the years before, and that the resource driven attraction only emerged after the initial stream had become established. It seems here that he’s positing a sort of positive feedback loop: more people results in more opportunities and perceived opportunities. In the case of asset speculative bubbles these gains may be illusory, but when it comes to concrete natural resources the increased population naturally has a better prospect of detecting or utilizing them. Once mines are discovered a chain reaction can occur whereby word gets back, and a massive wave of migration ensues. But even here quite often the migration will continue after resource exhaustion. California may have run out of gold, but its climate and population was such that other economic activities filled the vacuum. California firms raised fruit and created a demand for orange juice in the rest of the United States once transportation and preservation were up to snuff through a proactive marketing campaign.

It is here that the rise of an Anglo international order is critical. The colonies in North America, Australia, New Zealand, and lesser extent South Africa, were dependent on the motherland to buffer them during the collapse, and support their faltering economies through export oriented growth. The United States was an empire in itself, so that California could look to New York and the east as its own motherland. There is a fair amount of economic literature that in reality colonies do not usually pay for the home country. Rather, quite often the colonials depend on the military power, and economic demand pull, of the motherland. Prominent colonial lobbies emerge and engage in an ideological, nationalistic, appeal to the tax-payers of the motherland. It is often said that much foreign aid today is a transfer from the middle classes of developed nations to the elites of developing nations, and in some ways this is analogous to what is argued for colonies. Speculators, promoters, and incipient elites are strongly invested in as much transfer of wealth from the mature motherland to the frontier. During the first age of globalization around 1900 the United States was a debtor nation which absorbed a great deal of cash from the United Kingdom. This illustrates that even despite the fact that the USA was no colony, ties and affinities of nationality, combined with the idea of explosive returns during boom times, attracted British investors. Apparently the econometric literature indicates that in fact British investors would have done better investing in the home country, rather than in the USA or the colonies.

In Replenishing the Earth the argument is repeatedly made that these national affinities, ramping up of pre-industrial technologies and industrialization, and a particular shift toward an expansive, dominionist ideology, all aligned together to produce an Anglo breakout.  Other nations had had extensive colonies, and even non-trivial settlement, such as Spain. But all had stabilized at a far lower, less explosive stationary state. It may be that England’s growth was a matter of happenstance, that the technological and ideological conditions were not ripe during the age of Spanish colonial expansion for them to transform their domains into anything more than a pre-modern empire, such as the Romans, Arabs, and Chinese had had. Incremental, ideologically dominant, but not explosive and revolutionary.

But revolutions come to ends. The most surprising fact I encountered in Replenishing the Earth was that in 1890 Melbourne was the second largest city in the British Empire, after London, with 500,000 people! This was at the peak of a massive speculative boom, right before a bust. Over the next 50 years Melbourne grew only another ~50% in population! During boom-times prognosticators asserted that Australia was destined to have 100 million by 1950. That New Zealand was destined to match the mother country in population within two generations. These hopes were dashed by reality. It seems clear that Australia had ecological limits which were reached, as agriculture could only be so productive in the Murray-Darling basin. Britain’s own demographic expansion abated, so it could no longer provide so many migrants. And so forth. Linear projections fail more often than not. The future is full of surprises.

For me one of the interesting points was reading about past manias and bubbles, engendered in part by more efficient information technology, expectations of constant future growth, etc. It is likely that much of the Replenishing the Earth was written years ago, but many of the English-speaking nations went through irrational property bubbles in the 2000s. The USA and Britain predictably shared home-related television shows. James Belich warns repeatedly about excessive reliance on rational choice theory, and the assumption that the market price is an accurate reflection of all information. History repeats itself over and over, the information is clear in the record, and yet human optimism overcomes. To some extent this optimism, Whiggish, may have been necessary to sustain the economic productivity growth. But in some sense it was profoundly irrational, as all of human history teaches that one can never escape the iron laws of natural constraint.** Once the first boom-bust cycle occurred, the pattern was set in motion. Fortunes were to be made and lost, and those who had relocated, migrated, and uprooted themselves, were far more likely to do so in the future, or inculcate in their offspring the ideology whereby such migration was acceptable, expected, and meritorious.

Finally, the rapid change, and the stasis, in culture, economics and political order, makes me think of biological analogs, in particular evolutionary ones. We hold it as a matter of faith that nature is real, that in some sense the laws of the cosmos are bound as one, with each specific instantiation a reflection of some underlying principle. The peculiar similarities which a macroeconomist may feel when reading R. A. Fisher’s The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection is one case. The rise and fall of frontiers, with epidemics of manias, the cycles of enthusiasm, migration, and population growth, remind one of the shape of Lotka-Volterra equation. Replenishing the Earth may be a dense work of economic and cultural history, but in some very important ways it gives us a window into general phenomena which percolate through the order of things.

* Here’s a case of inversion: in the early 20th century ideologues turned the roots of all civilizations into examples of Aryan/Nordic superiority. Today from what I can tell the mainstream sentiment is to not comment or inquire too deeply into the Afrocentrist fiction that St. Augustine, Hannibal or Cleopatra were black. A fiction which from what I can tell has spread widely within the African American community. How the pendulum has swung!

** I understand that some readers feel we are facing those laws now, fair enough. The point is that much of humanity had nearly a 200 year respite, which is not trivial.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: History
  • http://haquelebac.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/my-fossil-railroad/ John Emerson

    Besides Australia, North Dakota was another place where expectations were unrealistic, with water being the deciding variable in both cases. ND’s population peaked in 1930, declined for decades and has only recently returned to its 1940 level. This happened while the US population was inclreasing — with about the same population it was now, ND had three Congressmen up until 1930. (Ludwig’s Jari project is another example of an economic development plan that failed because of a total unawareness of agronomy).

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  • Luis

    Talking about anglo myths and lies and since the author refers to Spain, one of the most disgusting one is about the alleged Spanish genocide against native Americans. Sorry to say but from the beginning the Spanish Monarchy encouraged the spread of native languages ( missionaries were ordered to learn and disseminate them), mixed marriages ( conquistadores gave their names to their indian wifes and bequeathed their legacy to the offspring, something impossible in racist anglo-America), created universities for Indians ( in Lima and Santo Domingo they date to the XVI century whilst in racist anglo-America no indians were allowed to study). But the most clear argument in favour of Spain is that today many Latin American nations have a high percentage and even a majority of indigenous people ( look at Ecuador, Bolivia, Paragua, Peru…) whilst in racist anglo-america the Indians were either exterminated or reduced to concentration camps. All in all, Spain created a mixed civilisation ( and that explains the complexities of Latin America today) whilst the Brits created a new white society after having erradicated the local component.

  • Sandgroper

    Australia now faces a dilemma which is a continuation of the theme – the states which have been booming economically on the back of mining ( Western Australia, Queensland and to a lesser extent South Australia) face constraints to continued economic growth from severe labour shortages, but they lack the infrastructure and water supply necessary to support the required growth in population.

    Our new Prime Minister has stated that she does not support the concept of a “big Australia” (big in this case meaning population), unlike her predecessor, and the Leader of the Opposition has said that if elected next month, he intends to slash immigration. Neither has suggested how the mining industry will obtain the people it needs to keep Australians in the manner to which they have become accustomed.

    But as you have noted more than once, linear projections suck.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    re: luis’s hysterics

    1) the “black legend” of spanish perfidy is probably due in large part to prejudice (anti-catholic/spanish) on the part of protestant powers. the facts of the spanish monarchy to a great extent true; as in the british colonies most of the bite of oppression was from the settlers, not the state.

    2) but, the difference between the british colonies and the spanish ones probably had less to do with ideology, and more to do with a) the original # of natives on the ground, b) the demographic constraints of iberia in that period vis-a-vis the massive migration of the british in the 18th, and especially 19th, century (far fewer women migrated than in the british case). the most strongly indigenous regions, parts of mesoamerica and the andes had the thickest indigenous populations pre-contact. additionally, there’s biological reasons that european women had a hard time in the andes. chile, argentina, and uruguay are more european in part due to ecology, lower density of natives, and the non-iberian immigration which was prominent there, especially argentina.

    3) limpieza de sangre and casta were racially motivated in some part.

    (future unhinged comments will not be posted)

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    john, yeah, that is mentioned. lot i left out of the review. it’s a big book.

  • http://sandwalk.blogspot.com Larry Moran

    The situation in Canada was famously more difficult, as attracting settlers was nearly impossible. Part of the reason was probably that unlike Great Britain the French banned the emigration of religious dissenters. The large enterprising French Protestant minority in the 17th century probably would have left for the New World if they had had liberty to do so, but settlement in Canada was limited to Roman Catholics.

    That’s nonsense. My ancestors, the David family and the Montaras family, settled in Quebec in 1650. They were French Huguenots from Rouen and Burgundy. It’s true that by this date French Protestants were technically forbidden to settle in New France but that didn’t seem to stop my ancestors or their friends.

    Many people from France settled in New France before Cardinal Richelieu banned non-Roman Catholics (about 1633). This was especially true in the beginning when Henry IV of France, himself a former Huguenot, sponsored some of the early settlements in Nova Scotia, and Quebec. These early settlers were by and large drawn from the west and south of France where a significant percentage of the population was Huguenot.

    Thousands of French Protestants settled in the British and Dutch colonies of North America. France could restrict settlement in their own colonies but it did a poor job of preventing Huguenots from emigrating.

  • Raymund

    Great review! A couple of comments on your post.

    These two dynamics, the broadening of suffrage to most American males, combined with a more explicit and legally sanctioned commitment to white supremacy, causes interpretive tensions for 20th century American liberal historians. This seems clear in works such as Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s The Age of Jackson, which attempted to trace American liberalism back to this period.

    It’s been years since I read The Age of Jackson, but my recollection is Schlesinger felt no interpretive tension–he came down heavily on the Jacksonian side of white male suffrage. His account of the grief of the slaves at the Hermitage on Jackson’s death comes to mind, but an even clearer example comes when he quotes, at no benefit to his thesis, a Democratic campaign ditty from the 1844 Presidential election: “De n—-r vote is not surprising/We’s all for Clay and Frelinghuysen” (the Whig candidates for Pres and VP, respectively).

    Second, England in the 18th and 19th centuries had a geographical advantage over its Continental rivals. Being on an island, with Wales long pacified and Scotland neutralized, England had no defensive need for a large army, and thus could have lower taxes, sounder government finances, a smaller bureaucracy, and more individual freedom than France or Prussia.

  • Danny

    Sounds really interesting, I’ll have to check it out. The writer is the premier historian of New Zealand. Coming from such a small country makes one less certain of the centrality of national history, and a greater willingness to look for broader civilizational patterns.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Thousands of French Protestants settled in the British and Dutch colonies of North America. France could restrict settlement in their own colonies but it did a poor job of preventing Huguenots from emigrating.

    you did note that i actually mentioned that, right? or are you just enjoying repeating something i said? :-)

    It’s been years since I read The Age of Jackson, but my recollection is Schlesinger felt no interpretive tension–he came down heavily on the Jacksonian side of white male suffrage. His account of the grief of the slaves at the Hermitage on Jackson’s death comes to mind, but an even clearer example comes when he quotes, at no benefit to his thesis, a Democratic campaign ditty from the 1844 Presidential election: “De n—-r vote is not surprising/We’s all for Clay and Frelinghuysen” (the Whig candidates for Pres and VP, respectively).

    thanks. it’s been over a decade. i was actually meaning more contemporary historians, but even then, i probably made my imputation too strong.

    Second, England in the 18th and 19th centuries had a geographical advantage over its Continental rivals. Being on an island, with Wales long pacified and Scotland neutralized, England had no defensive need for a large army, and thus could have lower taxes, sounder government finances, a smaller bureaucracy, and more individual freedom than France or Prussia.

    this is mentioned in the book. obviously didn’t have time to cover everything :-)

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    note: blatantly prejudicial comments are not going to be let through.

  • Yawnie

    18th and 19th Cent. Britain had plenty to worry about the Hanoverians were almost overthrown by the Jacobites in the ’45 and built the vast garrison fortress of Fort George which took over 20 years to complete. The colossally expensive Royal Military Canal was just one part of part of defences from the French. Britain’s economic condition in 1784 was such that national bankruptcy was a strong possibility.

    Jacksonian democracy was aimed at the Scotch-Irish South but the US constitution was designed to restrain such populism and it did because the thinking of his opponents in the New England elites was the wave of the future. WASP Transcendentalism has far more of a claim to be the origin of the current emphasis on diversity than anything from Jackson’s power base.

  • Icepick

    Razib, does the immigration graph include both legal and illegal immigration?

    (I realize that such definitions change over time.)

  • dave chamberlin

    Regarding the Luis comment and Razib’s follow up, one of the best things about this blog is Razib’s eviscerating of dogma. It really can be very educational and entertaing to allow through clever dogma that many believe and to then to give it that trademark Razib brow beating. Obviously the haters need to be censored but counterpointing popular viewpoints really adds more to the original statement.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    in most cases there really isn’t a “dark lord” as in LotR :-) the further back you go into the past, the more likely this is to be, because the normative frameworks we use to judge good guys vs. bad guys make the most sense with near-contemporaries.

  • Latifundiário

    Come on, give me a break. What made the United States the United States fifteen minutes of fame (now gone) was the big “German” immigration in the 19th century. Just analyse the map of the US Ancestry with largest population in county:
    http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/c2kbr-35.pdf
    The real Anglos in two hundred years of history in North America were still lagging behind the Apalachian Mountains. What made a big and original impact in North America, and in the world, was the arrival of tens of millions of Germans (the most decisive), of Irish, Italians, Polish, and so on.
    Australia is what Argentina was a century ago, a rich raw-exporter with a gloomy future, just like the gloomy future of Britain nowadays. South Africa has already met its destiny. It’s interesting that an “Anglo” from New Zealand, of Croatian stock is writing this kind of things, perhaps pretending to be an “an acculturated” Englishman, exactly in the moment of sharp decadence because alongside the 21st century they are going back to be what they were in the last centuries in face of the new rising powers of the world. Nowadays only the rampaging BRICS could dream or dare to write books about their exceptionality and glorious march in this new 21st century.
    Good blog here, by the way !

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Come on, give me a break. What made the United States the United States fifteen minutes of fame (now gone) was the big “German” immigration in the 19th century. Just analyse the map of the US Ancestry with largest population in county:

    this is false. see this post:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2010/04/when-america-was-post-colonial/

    the data in this paper:

    http://www.gnxp.com/blog/2009/12/settlers-immigrants.php

    the german & and irish immigrant wave of the mid-19th century were substantial. as well as the wave around 1900, especially the jewish one. but they loom large in our popular imagination because they were relatively recent. especially the last, where grandparents of young adults today lived in a world where they were raised by immigrants, or the children of immigrants.

    as for the #1 slot by germans, there’s good reason for that. but there’s also social science which strongly suggests a tendency to under-report british ancestry of those of mixed ancestry. e.g., those who are of part irish and english ancestry or part german and english ancestry, will tend to put down the non-british components as their ethnicity because that’s the more “ethnic” component.

    Nowadays only the rampaging BRICS could dream or dare to write books about their exceptionality and glorious march in this new 21st century.

    russia had its moment. it’s operationally being kept more prominent by natural resources economy. the only thing it’s rampaging at is demographic collapse (which i hope it avoids by a birth rate turnaround). and brazil has been the country of the future for a long time now. so it seems a bit rich to sneer at the developed anglo nations, which actually started off from a smaller demographic base than the latin american nations in 1800 and surpassed them.

    this is not to say that other nations don’t have bright futures. but it seems cheap to turn it into a zero-sum game. but as an american, i’d rather not get into an argument about this. we’re the richest country in the world still, so if the 15 minutes are up, so be it. good spot to decline from. and a world where everyone’s developed would be a good one. i’m not a mercantilist.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    South Africa has already met its destiny. It’s interesting that an “Anglo” from New Zealand, of Croatian stock is writing this kind of things, perhaps pretending to be an “an acculturated” Englishman,

    and what’s with the quotations? is brazil a racial nation? would you say “brazilian” for anyone of obvious preponderantly non-portuguese ancestry? seems a low move to me (unless you are a racial nationalist, in which case it’s consistent).

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  • Latifundiário

    Thanks.
    Just a small correction here:

    “so it seems a bit rich to sneer at the developed anglo nations, which actually started off from a smaller demographic base than the latin american nations in 1800 and surpassed them”.

    Not true

    United States population in 1800 = 5,308,483
    Brazil population in 1800 = 3,250.000

    United States population in 1850 = 23,191,876
    Brazil population in 1850 = 7,256,000

    United States population in 1900 = 92,228,496
    Brazil population in 1900 = 17,438,434

    Nowadays, 2010
    United States population = 310 millions
    Brazil = 200 millions

    Sources
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Census
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Brazil

    We like to imagine or we pretend that Brazil is a “racial democracy”. But I mean that every society or every state has an “ethnic core”. A Croatian immigrant in New Zealand is a Croatian immigrant. There’s a dictum, you can’t have an orgasmus with the other man’s instruments, you can just imagine it ! The Anglo “ethnic core” is only Anglo, only from England, not from Scotland, Ireland, Germany or Belarus. Not to mention that the “ethnic core” is usually the richer and most powerful social segment in the history of a booming nation !

    Brazil and the United States ?
    Would you bet on the hare or the tortoise winning the race? The hare can run faster and rushes away at the beginning, but if you remember Aesop’s fable, you will recall that the slow plodding tortoise wins in the end !

    Best of luck to everybody in this century ! Remember that the first decade of a new century is always the trend for the entire century !

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Not true

    ok. it is true for mexico, which forgive me is what usually comes to mind when i think ‘latin america’ :-)

    We like to imagine or we pretend that Brazil is a “racial democracy”. But I mean that every society or every state has an “ethnic core”. A Croatian immigrant in New Zealand is a Croatian immigrant. There’s a dictum, you can’t have an orgasmus with the other man’s instruments, you can just imagine it ! The Anglo “ethnic core” is only Anglo, only from England, not from Scotland, Ireland, Germany or Belarus. Not to mention that the “ethnic core” is usually the richer and most powerful social segment in the history of a booming nation !

    first, belich was born in new zealand. perhaps you are using “immigrant” in your idiosyncratic manner (english may not be your first language), but it does not usually connote those who are born in a nation and have citizenship. second, i know that there’s a lot of racism in brazil (the data in race in america indicates that it’s economically better to be black in the USA than brazil). my point is that people might be a little offended if said pele or giselle budchen were “brazilian.” first, who i am i to decide who is brazilian? second, brazil is a nation of immigrants, albeit with a portuguese cultural root. since you aren’t the arbiter of who is, or isn’t, brazilian, i’ll leave it at that because i know brazilians differ as to these things. but since you aren’t an arbiter of things brazilians, it’s really strange that you’re an arbiter of things “anglo.”

    the fact that you say ” Scotland, Ireland, Germany or Belarus” indicates that you’re not too familiar with the details of american ethnicity. there is minimal distinction between scots and english in relation to the other groups. no one considers james cameron, PM of britain, to be the scottish prime minister. no one considers thomas jefferson the welsh president, despite his likely welsh ancestry. the anglo core is obviously south english, but it includes protestant british more generally. if you disagree that’s fine, but one of the four folkways who settled america before 1776 is then disqualified from being anglo, the scots-irish. john mccain and andrew jackson are disqualified from being anglo. the plural majority of american presidents are disqualified from being anglo. the core of the american armed forces, the scots-irish southerners, are disqualified from being anglo. “cowboy culture” more generally is disqualified from being anglo. if you want to agree to all this, i’m fine with it, but you’re transforming the term “anglo” into a useless appellation limited to southern american aristocrats and new england yankee stock.

    the second issue is taht the irish, germans, and slavs are all distinct categories. the irish were anglo if they become protestant. in the 19th century USA there was a distinction between german protestants and catholics. the latter maintained their cultural separateness longer because of their religious organization. german protestants on the other hand assimilated into the broader anglo identity, if not with the speed of the british non-english. the german protestants that benjamin franklin complained about in the 18th century were generally assimilated by the 19th century.

    more broadly, protestant northern europeans were relatively easily assimilated into the anglo identity. presidents like martin van buren and theodore and franlkin delano roosevelt were accepted as operationally anglo despite non-anglo heritage (van buren grew up speaking dutch in a bilingual household in fact). large numbers of non-british protestants were an early feature of the mid-colonies, and to some extent had preceded the british.

    as a rule of thumb, i would say that non-british whites of settler wave 1, 17th to 18th century were all assimilated to anglo identity. the non-british waves of setter wave 2, 1840-1860, mostly irish and german, were assimilated to different degrees. the protestants assimilated pretty easily (the first german senators were already around by the 1850s). but some of the catholics maintained their separate identity much longer, and a minority of german and irish catholics maintain a “white ethnic” identity at opposition to the anglo majority to this day.

    finally, wave 3, the turn of the century to 1924, remain non-anglo in self-conception, jews, slavs, southern teuropeans. though because they’re white, conversion to protestantism can transform them quickly enough, as their cultural distinctiveness is often rooted in the local ethnic parish or temple/synagogue.

    more broadly in the USA “anglo” is now a term which denotes not n-hispanic whites. this is a new and artificial term, but from what i can tell it seems to be gaining traction. it is part of the more explicit polyracialism of the united states, with the emergence of artificial ‘asian american’ and ‘hispanic’ racial identities along with the white and black.

    i’m not too interested in discussing the history of anglo-nations with you at this point. but, do you recommend any english language histories of brazil? i don’t think i’ve read such a thing since 1998.

    p.s. the largest mass of poor whites in the USA are the scots-irish residents of appalachia. immigrants of wave 3 even tend to prosper (even excluding jews) because they remained around urban areas with economic opportunities

  • Antonio

    Hi,

    Which part of the history of Brazil are you mostly interested in? General overviews?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    antonio, yeah. i’m pretty ignorant. also, i like a nice balance of political, social, cultural and economic history. i’d rather not read just about wars, emperors, presidents, etc.

  • Danny

    Not Antonio, but for FWIW, I liked ‘Neither Black Nor White’ by Carl Degler:

    http://www.amazon.com/Neither-Black-Nor-White-Relations/dp/0299109143

    Though it’s very old; doubtless there are more recent studies of the same subject.

    I also liked this BBC documentary about Brazilian music:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/musictv/brasilbrasil/

  • Pingback: Biology as a historical parameter | Gene Expression | Discover Magazine()

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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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