- Anglicizing America: Empire, Revolution, Republic ed. by Ignacio Gallup-Diaz, Andrew Shankman, David J. Silverman
Edited by IGNACIO GALLUP-DIAZ, ANDREW SHANKMAN, AND DAVID J. SILVERMAN
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015
Anglicization, as described in the work of historian John Murrin, argues that the late colonial and Revolutionary eras can best be understood through an ironic development. In the decades before independence, the North American colonies were becoming Anglicized, more British than they had been in their history, and it was precisely this increased Britishness that led to calls for independence. American colonists came to separate themselves from England not out of an increased distinctive American identity, but rather in frustration that their rights as British subjects were not being fully recognized. This concept has been deeply influential to the scholarship and teaching of Revolutionary America since it was first articulated in Murrin’s work, even as aspects of it have been challenged by scholars emphasizing an Americanization in those same years. [End Page 769]
Anglicizing America draws together a collection of essays in celebration of Murrin’s scholarship and this central synthesizing concept. The contributors, all Murrin students, have included pieces that play with Anglicization in a wide variety of contexts. In addition to essays on politics and taxation, there are two essays on slavery, a piece on religion, essays on military history, and an essay on Native American history, all of which draw on Anglicization as a window into their subjects. These can be quite illuminating and should continue to draw our attention to the important connections between English and early American history and culture.
The volume opens with Murrin’s essay “England and Colonial America: A Novel Theory of the American Revolution,” initially published in 1974, and continues with nine essays examining aspects of Anglicization in the colonial, Revolutionary, and early republican eras. Andrew Shankman’s contribution, “A Synthesis Useful and Compelling,” provides a helpful overview of the ways that Anglicization has been used as an explanatory tool in Murrin’s prolific career. As Shankman explains, much of the power of Anglicization has been its ability to synthesize the history of the colonial and Revolutionary eras, drawing together many competing narratives into a single story that has the power to explain the political and cultural developments of America in these critical decades. Anglicization, he writes, allows us “to discuss colonial America as a whole, and to see these distinct societies experiencing similar patterns of change that connect them to the developments that shaped the early modern Anglophone world” (21). At the same time, Shankman is clear that Anglicization cannot explain everything. Covering the seventeenth century through the republican era, Shankman revisits the ways that Anglicization can help to explain the arc of the historical narrative from colonies to Republic. Of particular use is Shankman’s discussion of Murrin’s ideas of imperial federalism and the need of the British to secure “voluntary cooperation” from the colonists in order for the empire to function.
The other essays in the collection are grouped according to periodization. The three pieces on colonial history collectively reveal unexpected connections between colonial and English practice while raising questions about the specific meaning of Anglicization. Simon P. Newman’s “In Great Slavery and Bondage,” for example, discusses the emergence of racial slavery in Barbados. Newman is writing against the argument that racial slavery was an exception to the Anglicization story. In his essay, he explores [End Page 770] the ways that, rather than being a uniquely American or colonial development, plantation slavery had roots in English labor systems. Slavery, he argues, was a “modified English institution” that was far more British than is usually recognized (60). He draws upon the various types of unfreedom that typified agricultural labor in England to make this point, with discussions of forced apprenticeship, pauper apprenticeship, vagrancy laws, indentured servitude, and prisoners shipped to the island in advance of the turn to enslaved African labor to work on the plantations. The discussion of Anglicization invites Newman to identify these transatlantic connections in unfree labor practices.
William Howard Carter takes a different approach to the theme of...