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What if people abroad do not want to be just like us? What if they adopt our methods, buy our products, watch our movies and television shows, listen to our music, eat our fast food, and visit our theme parks, but refuse to embrace our way of life? What if they insist on remaining “foreign,” un-American, even anti-American? —Richard Pells, Not Like Us, xiv The idea that the globe is being “Americanized” has been around for more than a century. In 1902 William T. Stead, a reform-minded English journalist, wrote a book titled The Americanization of the World. A thoroughgoing internationalist, Stead wanted Britons to overcome their snobbishness and to join with their former colony to enlighten the world culturally and financially. It would be a “race union” of English-speaking peoples, seated in the fatherland. In his book Stead reviewed the advantages and disadvantages of New World ways to his scheme. He admired Americans’ reciprocity in trade—“benefits must be given if benefits are sought”—as well as the Monroe Doctrine, freethinking Protestantism, and the Americans’ “host of ingenious inventions and admirably perfected machines which we are incapable of producing for ourselves.”¹ However, he saw rather peculiar summits in American culture, singling out novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe, the painter Edwin Abbey, and marriage (noting that American wives were unusually common in the British cabinet). Nevertheless Stead was on to one thing. As Inglehart, Hofstede, and others have since shown statistically, prosperity has spread to democratic , Protestant, English-speaking economies much more rapidly than to Conclusion the “Rhineland” and “Mediterranean” models, not to mention those of Asia. These cultures were more open to “modernity.” But we shouldn’t be misled into thinking that Stead was in any way prophetic. People had been using Americanize as a verb for 120 years before Stead suffixed it. Shortly after the Revolutionary War, it was used to describe two aspects of the new nation. On one hand, the united colonies needed to create a common culture and to embrace further self-fashioning. Even Benjamin Franklin underwent this process, as Gordon Wood details in The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin (2004).To Americanize was also an internal dynamic of new citizens, carried forward by discussion, debate, and simple expediency. They needed systems of government, roads, trade, schools, and social conventions. What would these be? The strongest sense they had of themselves as “Americans” came from the contrasts they felt to their homelands (if they remembered them) and to newer immigrants, who were a serious problem. The latter soon became the major focus: how could the foreign-born pouring into the country be naturalized? From 1790 onward, dictionaries tell us, to Americanize meant to acculturate. A second meaning of Americanize developed abroad, for the world watched the new country curiously. Americo-mania was a term used in the British press from 1798 through 1880. Foreign observers arrived and reported home that Americans now had certain distinct “characteristics ,” which one might call a culture. Glimpsing themselves in foreign mirrors, Americans took up the topic, with Crèvecoeur and Jefferson in the lead. Then the visiting Tocqueville, Dickens, and Mrs. Trollope wrote books on the curious ways of Americans, stressing their practicality, unpretentiousness , or bad manners. By the mid-1800s, to Americanize was common parlance. Novelist William Dean Howells offered no explanation when he wrote in 1875 that one of his foreign characters “was Americanizing in that good lady’s hands as fast as she could transform him.”² These two uses continued into the early 1900s. For U.S. citizens, Americanize meant to acculturate immigrants through English classes, cooking lessons, and instruction in hygiene, which were delivered by government , women’s groups, and religious charities. They undertook such activities with evangelic zeal,contributing to cultural nativism and diplomatic isolationism rather than any colonial exploits. But for Stead—who never visited the United States—Americanization consisted of externally visible cultural and economic traits. The United States emphasized education , personal incentives, freethinking in religion, and democracy. Unlike most European nations it could feed itself, and it embraced laborConclusion 195 saving machines. Like China today, it was then flooding the world with “cheap goods” (which Stead courageously defended). By linking up with such a culture, he argued, Anglo-Protestantism could be extended not only to Ireland, South Africa, Canada, and Australia, but throughout the Americas, Asia, and Africa—while headquartered, of course, in Britain. There was no sense in The Americanization of the World...


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