I don’t know how it started, I just assume it’s part of my genetic composition, not unlike having hazel eyes or being right handed. It presented itself early in life, when I had the Union Jack and the St. Andrew’s Cross flags on my bedroom wall when other kids had Hulk Hogan or the Smurfs. Then there was the second grade when I decided to affect a British accent for some unknown reason. Yes, for whatever reason I have always known that I am an Anglophile.
This love of everything British continued throughout my adolescence, helped determine my college coursework and, while it does not influence me professionally, that love is still there. I know from talking with friends and those in the social media universe that I am not alone, many Americans and indeed people from around the world share this Anglophilia, the likes of which does not exist for any other country on the planet. But from whence comes this love of those pasty, sarcastic peoples of the North Atlantic?
From an American point of view, the source is pretty easy to identify. We began as a British colony and our language and many of our social traditions come from the United Kingdom. We share these close cultural bonds with no other country, so it is natural I suppose for many of us to be Anglophiles. But it’s more than just a general feeling of goodwill, many Americans are outright fanatical in their love of all things British.
Throughout college, my studies were concentrated on International Relations with a focus on, wait for it, English and Scottish politics and culture. Following graduation, rather than plan a massive, around the world trip, I opted instead to spend six weeks backpacking around England and Scotland.
Looking at a map, it would seem that six weeks for a relatively small nation would be more than enough time. In meeting all of my expectations however, I quickly learned that a lifetime wouldn’t be ample time to truly explore every inch of the British Isles.
One evening, while staying with friends in London (I was couch surfing before it was trendy) I attended a garden party when the subject of Anglophilia arose. I stood there, slowly drinking my Pimm’s, when someone brought up the subject of how pathetic Americans were when they tried to claim somewhat tenuous ties to their Motherland. Perhaps I had too many of the strange cocktails, but he seemed to be saying that Americans were regretful about the Revolution.
Could it be that more than 200 years later, there were still hard feelings? What, if anything, did the average Briton know about the American Revolution?
Donning my deerstalker hat and pipe in hand, I decided to investigate. Granted, everything I learned was anecdotal in nature; I did not interview the Minister of Education on the topic, but I did learn a lot about perceptions. I soon learned that the average Briton knew next to nothing about the American Revolution, except what they had seen in movies. The War was not included in standard educational materials except in passing. Rather, it was merely discussed as a continuation of the Seven Years War and a lead-in to the great contest with France.
Perhaps it’s my American ego, but I thought the Revolution would have warranted at least a chapter, or maybe even a project requiring dioramas and posters to be made. It would seem that there is a fundamental lack of understanding about the events leading up to the break from Mother England, a decidedly crucial event in the histories of both countries and indeed the world.
I won’t lie and say that Americans know anything about British history, I’d be shocked if a majority could even place the UK on a map. But what is instilled into the reluctant minds of every schoolchild are the reasons for the Revolution and the war itself, albeit it from a decidedly American perspective. I wouldn’t expect such a high level of detail to happen in the primary schools of our British cousins, but a mention would be nice.
Much is made of the special relationship between the United States and Britain, and deservedly so. There is no other country in the world with which we are as close to socially, politically, militarily and historically as Britain. I would therefore encourage our British friends to spend a little time researching some of the early years of American history to better understand our perspective of this unique relationship. It comes not from a sense of longing at the loss of the British Empire, but rather a sense of admiration of and kinship with the country of our origin.
In the meantime, I will continue paying outrageous sums in the gourmet food mart for HP sauce, digestive biscuits and pints of Boddingtons to enjoy every Monday while watching Jeremy Clarkson test the latest super car. Cheers!