- English Ethnicity and Culture in North America ed. by David T. Gleeson
English Ethnicity and Culture in North America is a collection of ten essays, each with a different author, whose purpose is to explore various facets of "English" ethnicity in the United States and Canada, as distinct from the more general concept of being "British." Although all the essays deal generally with culture, there is considerable breadth in the specificity of topics that clearly illustrates how people of English ancestry preserved elements of their culture in much the way as did more studied groups of Irish, French, Scots, Poles, Dutch, and Germans.
In his initial essay, William Van Vugt makes use of a database of English immigrants of 1647 to explore a number of demographic issues, including the immigrants' origins in England, occupations before and after migration, levels of education, religions, and the historical and economic context of the eras of migration. Among Van Vugt's conclusions are that many of the English appear to have moved for the opportunity to own land and that, once in North America, they made rapid socioeconomic progress.
The next two essays, by Donald M. MacRaild and Tanja Bueltmann, explore how organizations assisted in the definition and transmission of English identity. MacRaild focuses on the Benevolent Order of the Society of St. George to demonstrate that the English were in fact aware of their "ethnoculture" and strove to preserve it through ethnic organizations in much the same way as other groups (p. 37). Bueltmann's study of the Sons of England organization in Canada finds that the group's members engaged in similar activities but represented a different era and socioeconomic class of immigration and found much of the incentive for promoting their English ethnicity in the apparent challenges offered domestically by French Canadians and from outside by various international crises. Interestingly, as in other ethnic groups, attempts were occasionally made to unify all of the English organizations, but disagreement on how this process should take place and what the priorities ought to be doomed these attempts to failure. [End Page 415]
Kathryn G. Lamontagne's contribution explores working-class culture in the textile mill town of Fall River, Massachusetts. She argues that the labor struggle there cemented English ethnic awareness because of the organizing experience mill workers brought from their homeland. In contrast, Joseph Hardwick focuses his essay on clergy of the Church of England. While many fled from the United States during the American Revolution, new Anglican clergy arrived in the following decades. Hardwick examines how these clerics adjusted themselves to the democratic environment they entered, while at the same time preserving their Englishness. Turning to yet another field of endeavor, Dean Allen argues that cricket and other traditionally English sporting activities of the late nineteenth century influenced American perspectives on sports as well as on moral and social values. Further, English sporting clubs were a factor in the retention of English ethnicity during that era.
Gleeson's own contribution on the antebellum South begins by reviewing the close associations between England and the South and the pride with which many southerners acknowledged their English roots. He then proceeds to investigate the dichotomy of white southerners maintaining pride of origin while at the same time England increasingly distanced itself from the South during the American Civil War.
While the other chapters deal generally with the retention of English ethnicity, James McConnel's chapter investigates the question of erecting monuments to that English heritage in North America. Despite the positive relations between the two nations, there was a noticeable reluctance in the United States to promote this type of commemoration, and thus it did not form a basis for the retention of English identity.
The final two essays in the collection deal with the twentieth-century revival of English customs. Monika Smialkowska argues that the rising interest in folk customs in England at the end of the nineteenth century spread across the Atlantic as a response to...