by Sheldon Hanft
England, a country slightly larger than New York State, occupies 50,363 square miles (130,439 square kilometers) of the southern end of the largest island off the Atlantic coast of Europe. A land of rolling hills, moderate climate, abundant rainfall, fertile plains, many navigable rivers, and nearly 2,000 miles of ocean coastline, it is mineral rich and very arable. From the southwestern plateau of Cornwall and southeastern marshy downs through the gentle plains, the Pennine uplands, and the lake country, to the Cambrian mountains and Cheviot Hills, which shapes its western and northern borders with Wales and Scotland, no point is more than 75 miles from the seas that brought commerce, migrations, and invasion throughout much of England's early history.
While 80 percent of its 50 million people are native born, England has large communities of Scots (nearly ten percent), Irish, and Welsh in its border counties and about two million Asian Indians, Pakistani, West Indians, and other nonwhite peoples in its large cities. These Asian and Caribbean groups settled in England during and after the collapse of the British empire in the last half century. London, with a population approaching seven million, is the capital of England and the United Kingdom. The government is a constitutional monarchy with a Parliament and a cabinet system dominated by the Conservative and Labour parties. Seventy-eight percent of the English population belong to the Church of England (the Anglican Church, or the COE), which is legally established (tax supported) and officially governed by the monarch and the Archbishop of Canterbury. There are also sizable groups of Methodists, Evangelicals, Roman Catholics, Muslims, Jews, and Quakers in England. The national flag, commonly called the "union jack," has a broad red English cross (of St. George) with white borders imposed over the Scottish cross (of St. Stephen), shown as thinner red diagonals with thin white borders traversing from corner to corner on a field of royal blue.
The English descend from the Celtic tribes who brought iron age technology and Druid ceremonies, reflected in such monumental megaliths as Stonehenge, to the British isles in the first millennium. Their language and heritage are reflected in Welsh and Gaelic more strongly than in the English language. Roman conquests, begun by Emperor Claudius, brought England and Wales under Roman control by the end of the first century. During the next three centuries, England developed as a typical Roman colony, protected by the 73 mile-long Hadrian's Wall in the north and policed by the legions, who also constructed roads. During their occupation, Romans promoted commerce, established their institutions, and introduced Christianity in England.
The collapse of Roman rule in the early fifth century ended urban life, as groups of Germanic Angles, Jutes, and Saxons carved the country into tribal enclaves and later created the heptarchy. This diverse group of seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms vied among themselves for control of the island and later resisted the waves of Viking invaders from the eighth to the eleventh centuries. The most famous Anglo-Saxon ruler was Alfred the Great, who defeated the Danish Vikings, began the English navy, and made Roman Catholicism dominant.
In 1066 William of Normandy conquered England, ending a century of instability, and imposed systemic feudalism by constructing hundreds of castes. During the next three centuries, the institutions of Common Law and Parliamentary government developed, Henry II created a large Angevin empire, Richard the Lionhearted won fame on the Crusade of Kings, and his brother John provoked a baronial revolt that led to the signing of the Magna Carta—the first serious limitation on monarch's power in England. Royal power was further weakened by England's defeat in the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453), depopulation caused by the Black Death, and the baronial War of the Roses, which brought the Tudor dynasty to the throne in 1485.
Henry VII's victory at Bosworth restored strong central government, began transatlantic exploration, developed fiscal reform, and reasserted strong kingship. Henry VIII patronized the Renaissance, separated the Church of England from papal control, and furthered the Tudor revolution in government administration. After "Bloody" Mary's brief effort to return to Catholicism during the middle of the sixteenth century, her younger sister, Queen Elizabeth, restored Henry's church and defended it from the Spanish Armada of 1588. Her prosperous reign supported explorers like Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh, a cultural revival led by William Shakespeare and Francis Bacon, and let merchant adventurers settle England's first permanent American colony.
Between 1603 and 1714 a succession of Stuart rulers encountered Parliamentary opposition to their religious, tax, social, and constitutional policies, which resulted in massive emigration, three civil wars between 1642 and 1649, the public execution of Charles I, and Oliver Cromwell's republican Commonwealth. While Charles II was restored in 1660, the Glorious Revolution ensued in 1688-1689, establishing a Bill of Rights and making England the chief opponent of Louis XIV's wars during the reigns of William and Mary and Queen Anne.
In 1715, eight years after England united with Scotland, the present dynasty, the Hanoverian Windsors, ascended to the throne. During the eighteenth century, England compiled a vast empire, defeated the French in the Seven Years' War (1756-1763), and dominated international trade, notwithstanding having lost the 13 American colonies. Led by such English writers as John Locke and Sir Isaac Newton, the Enlightenment constituted the century's main cultural movement. The English organized the alliance that eventually defeated Napoleon in 1815.
Strengthened by electoral reforms, the Industrial Revolution, and imperialistic expansion in Africa and Asia, Britain remained a dominant world power throughout most of the nineteenth century. Although troubled by the Potato Famine, which began in Ireland, the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) has become synonymous with the expansion of imperialism and the cosmopolitan culture of the age. While creating an empire on which the sun never set, as it was said, England adopted social and economic reforms that made the government more democratic despite challenges to England's economic and political leadership.
The burden of fighting two world wars, the loss of much of its empire, and the demands of its new "welfare state" policies diminished England's political importance in the second half of the twentieth century. To accommodate these changes, Britain strongly allied itself with the United States and reluctantly increased its involvement in the European Common Market, a policy reflected in the difficult struggle to complete the channel tunnel connecting England with France in 1994. Yet the policy continues to meet strong resistance in Parliament and among the peoples of the British Isles. The challenges of surrendering their historical independence and cooperating with the policies and obligations of Common Market membership remain among the most difficult problems facing England and Great Britain at the end of the twentieth century.
Contemporary England is at the center of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which also includes Scotland, Wales, the Sea Islands, and the Channel Islands. Presently, the United Kingdom is composed of several distinctive areas that maintain their national churches and ethnic traditions and harbor a reluctance to be absorbed into a "greater England." In the 1960s the desire for greater independence led to national referenda in Wales and Scotland and erupted into sustained violence in Northern Ireland. These movements have declined considerably in recent decades. Less than ten percent of the people of the United Kingdom live in Scotland, while 5.5 percent inhabit Wales and under three percent live in Northern Ireland. The Channel Islands, mainly Jersey and Guernsey (off the French coast) and the Isle of Man (in the Irish Sea), historically considered part of England, have received self-government and dependency status in the last half century.
Scotland, directly north of England, has nearly five million inhabitants who occupy the northern 37 percent of the main island. It is a diverse area of over 30,414 square miles of land (78,772 square kilometers) that includes the Inner and Outer Hebrides and other islands in the Irish Sea and the Orkney and Shetland Islands in the North Sea. Edinburgh is its capital and three-quarters of its population live in its southern lowlands. This region makes use of inexpensive hydroelectric power and North Sea oil, which sustain an industrial complex and the textile, fishing, herding, and whiskey industries traditional in this region. The English language is spoken throughout Scotland, but Scottish accents are strongly divergent from those in England. Nearly 100,000 Scots speak Gaelic in addition to English.
The principality of Wales is 8,018 square miles (20,768 square kilometers) of generally mountainous terrain and nearly 2.8 million residents. While English is the official language, about 12 percent of its residents are bilingual in Welsh and English and about two percent speak only Welsh. Although the Church of England is established, it never won the loyalty of the general populace. During the nineteenth-century Industrial Revolution, Welsh "Calvinistic Methodists" gained the support of most of the working class and added a religious dimension to the social and economic issues separating working-class Welsh from the wealthier social groups who accepted the established Church. Administratively, Wales remains part of England, and, while Welsh nationalism has declined as a political force, it remains an important cultural and social expression of the Welsh character.
While England occupied parts of Ireland since the Middle Ages and conquered the whole island in the sixteenth century, deep religious loyalties, punitive economic legislation, and cultural differences left native Irish Catholics resentful of the transplanted Protestant minority who enjoyed great privilege. This division fueled periodic rebellions and led, in 1920, to a division of the island into a predominantly Catholic republic in the south and a predominantly Protestant Northern Ireland, which stayed part of the United Kingdom. These six Ulster counties with an area of 5,452 square miles (14,121 square kilometers) and over 1.5 million people were given semiautonomous local government centered in Belfast under the supervision of a royal governor and a Parliamentary committee. The eruption of sectarian violence in 1969 prompted London to resume direct control of local government. Negotiations in the 1990s provided hope for a solution to "the troubles."
Elizabeth II, of the House of Hanover-Windsor is the reigning sovereign. She married a Greek prince, Philip Mountbatten, and succeeded her father, George VI, to the throne in February 1952 and was crowned on June 2, 1953 in a ceremony televised worldwide. Her husband was made Duke of Edinburgh in 1947 and added the title of Prince of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland a decade later. Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, born November 14, 1948, was created Prince of Wales and is the heir apparent. His son, William Philip Arthur Lewis, born June 21, 1982, is next in the line of succession.
The Sovereign is the titular head of government and summons the meeting of Parliament—the national legislature, the members of which sit for five years or less. The House of Lords, empowered only to delay legislation, is composed of the two archbishops and 24 bishops of the Church of England, 763 hereditary nobles, and 314 life peers who are nominated by the government and created by the monarch. The House of Commons has 650 members directly elected by universal suffrage from 516 districts in England, 71 in Scotland, 36 in Wales, and 12 in Northern Ireland. Scottish, Welsh, and Irish nationalist parties elect some members to Parliament, and a Social Democratic Party has emerged to weakly challenge the Conservative and Labour parties. Asian and West Indian members of Parliament were returned from urban constituencies in every election since 1987.
Executive power is exercised by the Prime Minister and his or her cabinet, who are appointed by the monarch from among the members of the party receiving a majority in the House of Commons. Cabinet members must sit in Parliament, and they, individually and collectively, are responsible to the Crown and the Parliament whose support they must have in order to frame legislation, tax, and determine domestic and foreign policy.
While no longer an economic superpower, England remains a major manufacturing, food-producing, and commercial nation that has regained a favorable balance of trade. London remains one of the premier financial markets in the world, and its universities, museums, scientific establishment, and tourist attractions draw millions of people to England, especially from former colonies that remain affiliated through the British Commonwealth of Nations.
IMMIGRATION, SETTLEMENT, AND EMPLOYMENT
The English were the first non-Native Americans to settle the area that became the United States of America. From the first permanent colonies established at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607 and at Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay in 1620-1622 to James Oglethorpe's settlement in Savannah, Georgia, in 1732, English joint-stock companies, proprietors, and Crown officials sought to create a modified version of their native society in their American colonies. While many Englishmen came to America to exercise their own religion, and others sought liberation from the religious intolerance on both sides of the Atlantic—as did Roger Williams, fonder of Rhode Island—most English settlers were drawn by the economic opportunities and cheap land. Despite their diverse origins, the majority of colonies came under royal control, established the Church of England Episcopal Church after 1776, and created laws that adapted and imposed the English systems of law, governmental administration, education, commercial and financial management, and agriculture, as well as the arts and popular entertainment.
The group of single men sent by the Virginia company in 1607 to find gold and create a profitable trade failed, and the survival of the colony was doubtful, even under royal proprietorship, for two decades. It was not until the late 1620s, when stability agriculture and a profitable tobacco export began attracting an annual English immigration of several thousand men and women, that the success of Jamestown was assured. This rate of English immigration to the Chesapeake area was maintained until the early part of the next century, when it expanded as England suffered economic difficulties. After Maryland and Delaware were founded, the latter by Catholics, indentured Englishmen and working-class families constituted a majority of the new English settlers.
In addition to the small number of gentry, clergy, lawyers, officials, and minor aristocratic families who settled in the Chesapeake basin to develop plantations, over 30,000 male and female prisoners convicted of serious felonies were transported to Virginia, Maryland, and southern Pennsylvania between 1717 and 1776. Most of the prisoners and indentured servants, as well those as those who paid their passage to the Chesapeake, were young men with some training, possessions, and vocational skills. Although all colonies from Virginia to Georgia received a stream of English prisoners and indentured servants, many were successful in attracting the younger sons and poorer cousins of gentry and merchant families. In the late-seventeenth and eighteenth centuries sizable numbers of Scots, Germans, French, Irish, and Scotch-Irish settled in the South, and they accepted the culture and institutions already established.
Pilgrim and Puritan settlement in Massachusetts Bay attracted over 20,000 settlers from East Anglia and the counties west of London between 1620 and 1642. During these decades English settlements were planted in New Hampshire and Maine, and several English communities were established in Rhode Island and Connecticut by religious reformers who were not tolerated in Massachusetts. Unlike the southern colonies, most of the New England settlers were older and came to America with their family, friends, and assorted relatives. In some instances whole congregations immigrated to New England in this period. The influences of the clergy and the government was strong throughout the region, and successful efforts were made to convert Indians to Christianity.
English settlers from Virginia migrated into North Carolina in the seventeenth century, and English immigrants settled in all of the colonies between Connecticut and Maryland in the middle decades of the century. When an English fleet captured New Amsterdam in 1664 renaming it New York, their countrymen already comprised a majority of the city's population and were well established in New Jersey. While Pennsylvania, founded by English Quakers, attracted large numbers of German, French, Welsh, Scottish, and Scotch-Irish settlers, the colony retained its English character throughout the colonial period.
In the late seventeenth century most English immigrants were younger men who came from the rural areas of southern and south central England. Unlike the New England farming families, most who settled in the region from the Chesapeake to Charleston came as indentured servants and had training as farmers, skilled tradesmen, laborers, or craftsmen. By the last decade of the century, when the English and their descendants comprised 90 percent of the European settlers, Southern planters began importing slaves and the number of new indentured servants decreased. In the eighteenth century, many of those who indentured themselves to get to America were older than those who came before them and were accompanied by their family or related to the families in whose employ they remained.
In the eighteenth century, people from London and the northern counties comprised the majority of English immigrants. The percentage of women increased slightly, from about 15 percent to nearly 25 percent of the English settlers. English Americans began to intermarry more frequently than any other European group. This was partly due to the increased numbers of mobile tradesmen, craftsmen, and merchants among the new English Americans. After the government began transporting felons to the colonies after 1717, the number of unskilled settlers increased in the New England and middle colonies that were willing to accept them. Economic and political troubles brought new spurts of English immigration in the 1720s and in the decades preceding the American Revolution. Americans cited the writings of John Locke, the defender of England's Glorious Revolution, to condemn George III for abusing their "rights as Englishmen."
While English settlers and their descendants constituted only about 60 percent of the European settlers and half of the four million residents living from Maine to Georgia, according to the 1790 census, they had ensured the dominance of English institutions and culture throughout the new republic. This was reflected in the leaders of the national and state governments as well as in the movement to add an English-style Bill of Rights to the new Constitution. While Massachusetts had the largest number of English Americans, only in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the Northwest Territory were they a plurality. A cadre of English-trained officials, educated clergymen, wealthy merchants, landlords, and professionals dominated the governments and social structure in all of the colonies, despite the growing influx of immigrants from other parts of Great Britain and Europe.
English immigration to America sharply decreased between 1780 and 1815, as a consequence of English involvement in India and Latin America, events surrounding the French Revolution and Napoleonic conquest, and a "second war of independence" with the United States. During the War of 1812 British aliens were forced to register with local marshals; many English merchants were kept from their trade and forced to relocate; and for the duration of the war English aliens were treated with suspicion, and their freedom of movement was severely restricted.
In the decades preceding the war, London prevented English craftsmen from immigrating to America and restricted the number of settlers each ship could transport. Despite the general decline in immigration to America, several short spurts of English immigration to America occurred. One such increase developed at the end of the Revolutionary War, and another resulted from the monarchy's suppression of English radicals in 1793.
Although German, Irish, Scandinavian, Mediterranean, and Slavic peoples dominated the new waves of immigration after 1815, English settlers provided a steady and substantial influx throughout the nineteenth century. The first wave of increasing English immigration began in the late 1820s and was sustained by unrest in England until it peaked in 1842 and declined slightly for nearly a decade. Most of these were small farmers and tenant farmers from depressed areas in rural counties in southern and western England and urban laborers who fled from the depressions and from the social and industrial changes of the late 1820s-1840s. While some English immigrants were drawn by dreams of creating model utopian societies in America, most others were attracted by the lure of new lands, textile factories, railroads, and the expansion of mining.
The Chartist movement in the late 1840s, with its massive urban protests, spurred another period of English immigration, which peaked in 1854 and coincided with the waves of Germans and central Europeans who fled to America after the failed revolutions of 1848. With this new influx, as with the previous one, there was a preponderance of English people traveling with one or more family members, and the number of industrial workers, tradesmen, and craftsmen outnumbered farmers more than three to one. Along with its economic appeal, America attracted English settlers because of its similar language and customs and the popular admiration for "things English," especially in its large cities and in the South. A number of English labor unions, Poor Law authorities, charitable organizations, and utopian colonization schemes also encouraged English resettlement in America.
Eleanor Kenderdine Lenhart in 1921, cited in Ellis Island: An Illustrated History of the Immigrant Experience, edited by Ivan Chermayeff et al. (New York: Macmillan, 1991).
"W e were put on a barge, jammed in so tight that I couldn't turn 'round, there were so many of us, you see, and the stench was terrible."
During the last years of 1860s, annual English immigration increased to over 60,000 and continued to rise to over 75,000 per year in 1872, before experiencing a decline. The final and most sustained wave of immigration began in 1879 and lasted until the depression of 1893. During this period English annual immigration averaged more than 80,000, with peaks in 1882 and 1888. The building of America's transcontinental railroads, the settlement of the great plains, and industrialization attracted skilled and professional emigrants from England. Also, cheaper steamship fares enabled unskilled urban workers to come to America, and unskilled and semiskilled laborers, miners, and building trades workers made up the majority of these new English immigrants. While most settled in America, a number of skilled craftsmen remained itinerant, returning to England after a season of two of work. Groups of English immigrants came to America as missionaries for the Salvation Army and to work with the activities of the Evangelical and Mormon Churches. The depression of 1893 sharply decreased English immigration, and it stayed low for much of the twentieth century.
Throughout the nineteenth century, England was the largest investor in American land development, railroads, mining, cattle ranching, and heavy industry. Perhaps because English settlers gained easy acceptance, they founded few organizations dedicated to preserving the traditions of their homeland. While the English comprised only 15 percent of the great nineteenth-century European migration to American, those going to America from England made up less than ten percent of the people leaving England between 1820 and 1920. These migrations in the late nineteenth century were important in that they altered the distribution of English settlers in America. By the end of the century the middle-Atlantic states had the largest number of English Americans, followed by the north-central states and New England. The growing number of English settling in the West and Pacific Coast regions left the South with the smallest percentage of English Americans by the end of the century.
In the twentieth century, English immigration to America decreased, a product of Canada and Australia having better economic opportunities and favorable immigration policies. English immigration remained low in the first four decades of the century, averaging about six percent of the total number of people from Europe. English culture, literature, and family connections became widely coveted in the early decades of the twentieth century, due to a number of well-publicized marriages of wealthy Americans to children of English aristocrats and to the introduction of Western history and literature courses stressing America's English heritage in colleges and in the public school curriculum after World War I. During the decade of the Great Depression of the 1930s more English returned home than immigrated to the United States. For the first time, more English women than men immigrated.
This decline reversed itself in the decade of World War II when over 100,000 English (18 percent of all European immigrants) came from England. In this group was a large contingent of war brides who came between 1945 and 1948. In these years four women emigrated from England for every man. Although total English immigration increased to over 150,000 (the level maintained in the 1920s) it was less than 12 percent of the European influx during the 1950s. In the 1960s English immigration rose by 20,000 (15.5 percent of all Europeans migrating) and continued in the next decade because of the so-called brain drain of English engineers, technicians, medical professionals, and other specialists being lured to America by multinational corporations. In the three decades since 1970, English immigrants, who were about 12 percent of the total arriving from Europe, were usually unmarried, professionally trained men and women. While the average age of immigrants rose in the last decades of the twentieth century, the number of married people and children continued to decline, and immigrants continued to merge almost imperceptibly into American society.
The periods of increased English immigration in this century are notable because they involved more people from middle and upper-class groups whose migrations raised political issues in England, not because the level of immigration was significant. For most of the period between 1921 and 1969, when immigration quotas were based on the country of origin, England did not fill the generous quotas granted to it. Despite the slight decline in English immigration under the current immigration structure adopted in the 1970s, 33 million Americans identify themselves as being of English descent in the 1990 census. They constitute the third largest ethnic group in the United States, and despite the fact that the Southeast is the region of the nation with the largest number of Americans of English descent, the states currently having the largest number of English Americans are California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Ohio.
Acculturation and Assimilation
Since all but two of the original colonies were founded by Englishmen, were administered by English officials, were protected by England's army and navy, and were led by English-trained clergy, lawyers, and educators, they adapted English models in their laws, constitutions, educational system, social structure, and cultural pursuits. From the colonial period it remained fashionable for wealthy Americans to send their sons to England for a year of college, and English styles in literature, poetry, music, architecture, industry, and clothing were the models to emulate until the twentieth century. Throughout the colonial period Americans supported England's wars enthusiastically, and when resentment and resistance to English policies developed in America in the 1760s and 1770s, Americans looked to Parliament for redress of their grievances, which they perceived as emanating from a tyrannical King and his corrupt ministers. Numerous colonial towns created in this period were named in honor of William Pitt and John Wilkes, two popular English Parliamentarians who opposed George III.
While differences developed, it is not surprising that English immigrants had little difficulty in assimilating to American life. Although some loyalists left the United States for England and other colonies after the revolution, the American resentment against the policies of the English government was rarely transferred to English settlers who came to American in the first decades of the nineteenth century. This separation is seen in the sharp rise in English imports in the two decades after the American Revolution. As British naval policies and practices, adopted in their long struggle against Napoleonic France, kindled new conflicts with America, which culminated in the War of 1812, popular resentment against English immigrants intensified. In such states with large German, French, and Celtic communities as Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, and the Carolinas, broadsides and pamphlets such as Niles' Weekly Register, rebuked English immigrants for their "assumed superiority," their poverty, and their provincialism. During the War of 1812, English merchants, primarily in Charleston, Baltimore, and New York, were relocated and prevented from conducting their business, and recent English immigrants were required to register with local government agencies.
In 1820, English immigration again increased and the new settlers found an easy acceptance, though some resentment remained in the Northeast and in the cities of the Atlantic seaboard with large Irish and Scotch-Irish communities. Faced with few language barriers and a familiar legal and political system at the local level and American variants of nearly every English religious denomination, they had little inclination to establish their own churches, newspapers, or political organizations. While the immigrants often confined their socializing to friends and relatives from their own county (shire) or region of England, their children found easy acceptance, resettled comfortably, and merged into the general population virtually unnoticed by all but their parents.
The only English social organizations to endure for several generations were the assorted groups of Odd Fellows, English fraternal societies for the working class recreated in America by Thomas Wildey and John Welch in Baltimore in 1819 and James B. Barnes in Boston the following year. These lodges appealed to the more skilled immigrant tradesmen and craftsmen because they provided the companionship of English pubs, employment connections, and shelter from critics of English immigrants. Despite difficulties in the 1830s and 1860s, the fraternity survived by accepting immigrants from other parts of Britain and Americans of mixed lineage. Its appeal to waves of English immigrants from 1870 to 1893 was limited, and at the turn of the century there were fewer than three dozen chapters, mostly in New England and the northern states. The organization survived to the present by opening its membership to all Americans and by devoting its activities to civil affairs.
While a few social organizations and newspapers were established for English immigrants in the early nineteenth century, they all failed to gain significant support and did not last long. New York was the home of the first newspaper published in 1827 for English American readers. Named Albion; or, the British and Colonial Foreign Gazette, it survived until 1863 and outlasted its rivals, the Old Countryman (1830-1835), the Emigrant (1835-1838), and the Anglo-American (1843-1847). Inexpensive editions of English newspapers became available in the 1840s and undermined the three efforts made in the 1870s and 1880s to publish dailies for the expanding communities of English residents in Massachusetts and New York.
In comparison with other new immigrants, the English immigrants in the decades preceding the Civil War were more prone to separate from the community of their fellow immigrants, more willing to intermarry, and more enthusiastic in embracing the culture of their new land. For most groups of English immigrants throughout the century their ethnic identity was expressed by their participation in the Episcopal Churches in most states and in the Methodist and Baptist Churches in the rural South. Throughout the century, such groups as the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Episcopal Church of England, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and the Salvation Army sent ministers and missionaries to English congregations in America. With funds raised in England and in English immigrant communities along the Atlantic seaboard, Kenyon College and Jubilee College were established in Ohio and Illinois, respectively, to train Episcopal ministers for service in towns in the middle and far western states where numerous English immigrant communities of miners, craftsmen, and farmers had settled. In many of these states, English immigrants avoided political office beyond the local level and were more reluctant than members of other ethnic groups to apply for American citizenship.
The tendency to adapt and integrate increased in the second half of the century. One study concluded that less than 20 percent of children from the turn of the century's largest community of English immigrants eventually married someone of English descent. While a number of English immigrant groups in the second half of the nineteenth century, like the textile workers in Lowell, Massachusetts, the cutlery workers in Connecticut, and English miners in West Virginia, may have lived close together and established distinctly English denominational congregations, they were absorbed into the mainstream of American life within a generation. While some communities of English miners, mill workers, and agricultural settlers in the Midwest established libraries, social clubs, and musical societies to provide English culture, most, including the chapters of the St. George's Society in Madison, Wisconsin, and in Clinton, Iowa, rarely survived for more than a decade.
While English immigrants unsuccessfully tried to establish local labor unions, labor exchanges, and political pressure groups in this period, small groups of English skilled workers in industrial and mining communities in the East and Midwest were able to maintain some social cohesion and community identity in the periods of heightened immigration. These groups were able to maintain, for as long as two decades, the self-help associations, buying cooperatives, fraternal lodges, and sporting associations common in English communities in the late Victorian era.
The English immigrants in the last three decades established their own groups of working-class fraternal, social, political, and literary organizations. The Sons of St. George was one of the most durable of these groups and survived until the Great Depression. Originally excluding all but native born English and their descendants, the lodges developed insurance services, secret rituals, and special social functions that were characteristic of other groups. The organization declined as English immigration decreased and America became more isolationist in the two decades following World War I.
A major stimulus for English immigrants to organize was the emergence of the Irish as a major constituency in American politics. In order to increase their political influence, English American groups encouraged the reluctant English immigrants to become citizens in the last decades of the century. While a smaller percentage of English renounced their loyalty to their homeland than did immigrants from other parts of Europe, the census of 1900 showed a significant increase in the percentage of English Americans becoming citizens of the United States. This trend continued and grew in the twentieth century until the rate of English immigrant assimilation matched that of other European settlers.
One result of this trend was the organization of English American and British American political clubs in Philadelphia, Boston, and New York, as well as in smaller industrial towns including Elizabeth, New Jersey, and Stanford, Maine; and in Ohio, Iowa, and California, where communities of English miners, artisans, and industrial workers asserted their political muscle, predominantly on behalf of the Republican party. These activities escalated after an 1887 banquet celebration of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in Boston's Faneuil Hall was disrupted by thousands of angry Irish protesters, who tried to prevent the entry of the 400 ticket holders. When only a few British politicians condemned the protest, English American and Scottish American leaders organized a federation of more than 60 political action clubs and launched a number of periodicals. Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois each had a dozen or more English communities that organized politically, and New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, and California each had several chapters. These clubs had little impact on the elections of 1888 and 1892, and most were absorbed into a broader anti-Catholic confederation, the American Protective Association, an offshoot of the nativism and populist movements of the 1890s.
Three publications launched in the late 1880s—the British-American Citizen, published in Boston between 1887 and 1913; the Western British American, published in Chicago between 1888 and 1922; and the British-American, published in New York and Philadelphia between 1887 and 1919— attained a limited degree of success by appealing to immigrants from all parts of Britain. They were not successful in uniting Americans of Scottish, English, Irish, and Welsh descent into a single effective political action group, but they did serve to sharpen the ethnic identity of their readers and underscore the importance of the British contribution to American society. The survival of these periodicals after the collapse of the political clubs was due in part to improved diplomatic relations between the United States and Britain after 1895, which led to an alliance in World War I.
The Anglo-American partnership begun in World War I has endured to the present. Britain's actions and policies throughout the century, represented in the American consciousness by the Tommies in the trenches of World War I, Prime Minister Winston Churchill's resistance to Hitler, and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's support of America in the Persian Gulf War, has increased the popularity and general acceptance of English immigrants.
COMMON STEREOTYPES AND MISCONCEPTIONS
Derived from stage plays, BBC television shows, and novels, many of which have been made into Hollywood movies, a number of overdrawn stereotypes abound that exaggerate class distinctions and distort the social attitudes of English Americans. The long-lasting series, "Masterpiece Theater," and the many movies made from Noel Coward plays and Agatha Christie mysteries have reinforced the cartoonish view of the English aristocracy as a rather stuffy, humorless, reserved, and insensitive group of social relics living hollow lives and wasting their remaining resources on trivial pursuits. They survive the traumas of modern life only with the assistance of their ever-dependable gentlemen's gentleman. English rulers and political leaders are unrealistically portrayed as charismatic, cosmopolitan, and solely responsible for all of the grand achievements in English history. From the craftiness of Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth to the architects of the British Empire and such gifted orators like Pitt and Churchill, English leaders emerge as incorruptible patriots with unerring policies and a love of their citizens not matched in the history books. Despite its inaccuracy, this image is the one with which American presidents from John Fitzgerald Kennedy to Bill Clinton have tried to associate themselves in the course of their relations with England.
The stereotypes of middle-class English Americans keep alive an unreal idealization of the Victorian era. This depiction of the irascible and hardworking English detective, lawyer, professor, or businessman with an idiosyncratic personality has become a stock figure on both sides of the Atlantic. They are the more respectable versions of such working-class bounders as the comic strip character Andy Capp, lazy sports zealots inclined to violence, alcoholism, and womanizing. Working-class women, typified by the cheerful movie heroine Mary Poppins, are just the opposite; English nannies, secretaries, and junior executives are perceived as extremely hardworking and efficient and are in great demand in the homes of elite families and in the offices of American corporations.
There are no particular health problems or psychological conditions that are specifically associated with British Americans. A number of descendants of British Americans were among the founders of medical societies and others have been prominent in the health insurance industry. England expatriates brought the cooperative movement to America in the early nineteenth century and were early supporters of group health insurance. The success of the National Health system in Britain created benefits for employers, making British multinational corporations advocates of national health insurance in the United States.
The popularity in America of English music—both classical and contemporary—movies, television, and theater, and of English performers might suggest that the only distinction between the speech of England and America is in the accents. Pronunciation in England, however, is an important indicator of social class and region of origin, as it is in America. Yet Americans make little distinction between the working-class cockney staccato of the east end of London and the slower, precise articulation of well-educated professional. After living in the United States for several decades, most English immigrants are not identifiable by their accents, and their descendants are indistinguishable from other native born Americans.
The sharper distinction between English of the immigrant generation and those born in the United States is a vocabulary of several hundred words and phrases. While some newer English words, especially slang words, are popularized in America by English musicians and actors, the names of ordinary items distinguish the immigrant English from other Americans. While an American might guess that petrol powers an automobile, he might be hesitant to open the car's bonnet (hood) or eat some crisps (potato chips) or ring off (hang up) the telephone. The English refer to sausages as bangers and call the toilet the "loo" or the "W.C." (for water closet).
Family and Community Dynamics
As in other areas of American society, it was the English pattern of the nuclear family—focused on the husband, wife, and children with an occasional relative family living in close proximity—that set the pattern of early life in the colonial era. While women were in short supply in the early decades of the colonial era, the majority of Puritan settlers came to New England with their families, as whole congregations and sizable groups of religious dissidents transferred their hopes of a "Godly commonwealth" to America. They set the pattern for establishing Sunday "blue laws," to sanctify the Sabbath by prohibiting public drinking, dancing, and work-related activities and encouraging prayer and charitable and missionary activities, especially among family members. Outside New England the pastimes described in King James's Book of Sports (1681) were more prevalent; modest displays of entertainment, especially dancing, singing, and athletic competitions among family groups were common and often held under the auspices of the local Episcopal congregation. As noted above, English immigrants, especially those who were part of the larger waves of migration in the nineteenth century, usually settled in small towns with other English miners, metal workers, farmers, and skilled textile specialists and recreated English-style pubs, choral groups, sporting clubs, self-help societies, unions, and fraternal organization, few of which endured for very long beyond the lifetime of the founders.
In all social classes, to differing degrees, English American women dominated the domestic and social life of family as well as its relations with friends and extended family as completely as men dominated the public aspects of family life and business. As in the land of their birth, family celebrations and the maintenance of connections with the prominent relatives or members of "cadet" branches of the family were left to women, especially in more affluent and socially prominent families. Among middle- and upper-class families, care was taken to educate and discipline the older children and to encourage them to continue family businesses and social obligations. Their greater reliance on family, kinsmen, and contacts from their native regions of England and the ease with which they blended into American society, may help explain why English immigrants were last among the new settlers to embrace American citizenship.
This may partially explain the greater proclivity of their children to eventually marry spouses who were not of English ancestry and their willingness to leave the communities in which they were reared. They found that they could be "at home" anywhere in America and that their heritage was not an obstacle, but rather an asset, in finding a mate who could improve their social and economic status.
For most groups of English immigrants throughout the century, the church was central to ethnic identity. The literature and scriptures of the Episcopal, Methodist, and Baptist churches across the country were nearly the same as those in the communities of their birth. Many of these congregations maintained and supported projects of the Episcopal Church of England, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and the Salvation Army, making it easy for descendants of English immigrants to transfer their loyalties from their parents' congregation to one in the community to which they had moved to create their own family. This pattern may change in the future, as the acceptance of the ordination of women and negotiations for a reconciliation with the Vatican and the Church of England proceed and as the Episcopal Church worships with its own "modern" Prayer Book.
From the colonial era, English Americans were concerned about higher education and the need for a trained ministry. A large percentage of the early colleges in America were founded and supported by English immigrants and their descendants especially in New England and the southeast. A number of traditional English sports such as sculling (team rowing) and rugby are still supported at colleges founded by English Americans, but the three English aristocratic pastimes that enjoy the greatest popularity in America, and have shed their English identity, are "lawn" tennis, horse racing, and sailing. In a scattering of communities in America, rugby, cricket, and English football (soccer) fields—where teams wearing traditional outfits of long socks, short pants, and shirts with broad horizontal stripes— keep alive a uniquely English sports heritage.
While many groups, including the New England Puritans and the English Quakers in Pennsylvania, were among the earliest advocates of free public education at all levels, the wealthy and professional classes of English settlers favored private schools and colleges, often affiliated with their particular denomination. When they could, they provided their older sons with a junior year abroad at a British university, as a substitute for the "grand tour" of the continent provided by their own parents. Many endowments were provided to subsidize the education of the children of expatriates in England, the most famous of which is the Rhodes scholarship program, named for the English financier and colonial official Cecil Rhodes. Throughout the United States, English immigrants and their descendants were among the leading philanthropists, supporting museums, colleges, and cultural organizations and many donated facilities in England to enable American colleges to conduct exchange and study-abroad programs. After World War II, Americans of English descent raised millions of dollars for the restoration of churches, schools, and other public buildings in England that they had visited or attended.
Few particularly English holidays are celebrated by English Americans. In some communities small Guy Fawkes Day commemorations are held on November 5 to remember the deliverance of the King and Parliament from a plot in 1605 to destroy them by gunpowder. The English equivalent of July 4, it is celebrated in a similar fashion, with games, fireworks, and a large meal. Among some royalist families, St. Charles Day, marking the martyrdom of King Charles I on January 29, 1649 is celebrated with a somber ritual resembling a wake but featuring the imbibing of spirits, flag waving, and the reading of Charles's final speech from the gallows.
Because of their shared heritage, the family structure and community dynamics of English Americans have differed little from the rest of mainstream American. The mass media have continued to shape the culture of English and American societies in similar ways in the late twentieth century.
Beginning in the colonial era, the Church of England was active in every colony, despite the fact that many groups of English immigrants came to America to escape that institution and enjoy the freedom to practice other forms of Christianity. In the federalist period, as the Church of England became the Episcopal Church of America, other evangelical denominations including Quaker and Methodist ended their affiliation with their English counterparts and joined the American religious establishment. Throughout the history of the United States, there was little need for English expatriates to found separate churches, as virtually all English denominations found support in the American religious establishment. The exceptions to this situation were the groups of mill workers, miners, and tradesmen who settled in distinct enclaves in small towns in the 1870s and 1880s. A half dozen of these communities formed small congregations affiliated with less prominent English evangelical sects but were absorbed by other mainstream denominations within a decade. The Episcopal and Methodist Episcopal churches remained an important segment of American Protestantism, and English immigrants and their descendants make up a significant and influential part of their membership.
Politics and Government
The histories of England and America were inseparable during the colonial period, and English settlers dominated all aspects of colonial government and society. The American colonies successfully fought a war of rebellion against Britain from 1776 to 1783, after which several thousand English loyalists migrated to other Crown colonies, while others returned home. Several diplomatic problems, American aspirations to annex Canada, and the impressment of American sailors by the British navy led to the War of 1812. After America defeated Britain in 1815, a nationalist spirit swept the victorious nation, resulting in harsh public criticism of England, a brief period during English immigration was discouraged, and a number of conflicts renewed tension between the two countries.
Diplomatic relations began to improve as Britain promised naval support for the Monroe Doctrine, sealing off the American continent from colonial settlements by European powers, and as disputes over the Canadian border were settled. While new problems arose during the American Civil War and the period of Western expansion, cordial relations developed in the last part of the nineteenth century as the interests of Britain and America were challenged by other imperialist nations. Throughout the twentieth century a special relationship has endured, through alliances in two world wars and the Cold War. Britain was America's strongest supporter the Persian Gulf War, and the United States supported Britain in its war against Argentina to retain the Falkland Islands.
Individual and Group Contributions
During all of American history English immigrants and their descendants were prominent on every level of government and in every aspect of American life. Eight of the first ten American presidents and more than that proportion of the 42 presidents, as well as the majority of sitting congressmen and congresswomen, are descended from English ancestors. The acronym WASP, for white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, is used to describe the dominant political and cultural demographic segment in America.
The descendants of English expatriates are so numerous and so well integrated in American life that it is impossible to identify all of them. While they are the third largest ethnic nationality identified in the 1990 census, they retain such a pervasive representation at every level of national and state government that, on any list of American senators, Supreme Court judges, governors, or legislators, they would constitute a plurality if not an outright majority.
An interdisciplinary quarterly journal that features scholarly articles and reviews of books dealing with English history and culture. It is published by the North American Conference on British Studies and Appalachian State University.
Contact: Michael J. Moore, Editor.
Address: P.O. Box 32072, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina 28608-2072.
Telephone: (828) 262-6004 .
Fax: (828) 262-2592 .
E-mail: [email protected]
A free bimonthly newsletter published by the British Information Services that provides a brief listing of British news items, cultural events, and short feature articles on people and places of general interest.
Address: 845 Third Avenue, New York New York 10022.
Telephone: (212) 752-8400.
Monthly magazine published by the British Tourist Authority that includes an abundance of pictures and special features of tourists attractions, festivals, and historical and architectural monuments.
Address: 680 Fifth Avenue, New York New York 10019.
Telephone: (212) 581-4708.
Manchester Guardian Weekly.
North American edition of The Guardian. It summarizes the news of the week in England and contains a variety of features, book reviews, international news, advertisements aimed at expatriates, and selections extracted from the Parisian Le Monde and the Washington Post. It has the largest circulation of any English newspaper in America.
Address: 19 West 44th Street, Suite 1613, New York, New York 10036-6101.
Telephone: (212) 944-1179.
Brings news of Britain to the British community in the United States.
Contact: Ronald Choularton, Editor.
Address: Box 1823, La Mesa, California 91944-1823.
Telephone: (619) 466-3129; or (800) 262-7305.
E-mail: [email protected] .
Online: http://sd.znet.com/~unionj .
RADIO AND TELEVISION
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
Publishes London Calling, a program guide for several shortwave radio programs broadcast by the BBC to the United States and other countries. Also distributes such BBC television series such as "The East-Enders," "Mystery Theatre," and "Are You Being Served," which are featured on America's Public Broadcasting System.
Address: 630 Fifth Avenue, New York New York 10017.
Telephone: (212) 507-1500; or, (212) 507-0033.
Organizations and Associations
British Social and Athletic Club.
Founded in 1966 and centered in California, it has a dozen branches in the state and abroad. It provides a range of social and recreational activities and teaches and promotes cricket and soccer. It sponsors group flights to important matches around the world and has branches in Australia and New Zealand.
Address: 13429 Tiara Street, Van Nuys California 91401.
Telephone: (213) 787-9985.
Daughters of the British Empire in the United States of America National Society (DBE).
Founded during World War I, this charitable society maintains facilities for aged British men and women.
Contact: Rena Platt, President.
Address: P.O. Box 872, Ambler, Pennsylvania 19002-0872.
Telephone: (919) 846-2318.
Fax: (919) 846-2318.
E-mail: [email protected]
English Speaking Union of the United States.
Founded in 1920 to promote British American friendship and understanding it sponsors debates, lectures, and speakers. It provides scholarships and travel grants and has over 70 branches throughout the United States. It publishes a quarterly newsletter.
Address: 16 East 69th Street, New York New York 10021.
Telephone: (212) 879-6800.
International Society for British Genealogy and Family History (ISBGFH).
Strives to foster interest in the genealogy and family history of persons of British descent, improve U.S.-British relations, increase the educational opportunities and knowledge of members and the public, and encourage preservation of historical records and access to records.
Contact: Anne Wuehler, President.
Telephone: (801) 272-2178.
North American Conference on British Studies.
Founded in 1951, it is a national scholarly group that promotes scholarly research and discussion of British history and culture. It has seven regional branches, publishes Albion and the Journal of British Studies, and awards several prizes for the best new works in British Studies.
Contact: Brian P. Levack, Executive Secretary.
Address: Department of History, University of Texas, Austin, Texas 78712.
Telephone: (512) 475-7204.
Fax: (512) 475-7222.
E-mail: [email protected]
St. George's Society of New York.
Founded in 1770, it is a charitable organization whose membership is limited to British citizens, their descendants, and members of Commonwealth nations. It provides assistance for needy British expatriates in the New York area.
Contact: John Shannon, Executive Director.
Address: 175 Ninth Avenue, New York, New York 10011-4977.
Telephone: (212) 924-1434.
Fax: (212) 727-1566.
E-mail: [email protected]
Museums and Research Centers
Center for British Studies.
Interdisciplinary unit of University of Colorado at Boulder, operating under its own board of control. Concentrates on British history, literature, and art. Based on research collections in the university's libraries, which include microfilmed sets of original manuscripts and early books and journals from the medieval, early modern, and modern periods.
Contact: Elizabeth A. Robertson ExecutiveDirector.
Address: CB 184, Boulder, Colorado 80309-0184.
Telephone: (303) 492-2723.
Fax: (303) 492-1881.
Yale Center for British Art.
Founded in 1968, the center is part of Yale University. It includes the Paul Mellon collection of British art and rare books, and it features a gallery, lecture, and seminar rooms and a library of over 100,000 volumes. It is affiliated with the undergraduate and graduate programs at the University and provides scholarships for research projects.
Address: 1080 Chapel Street, New Haven Connecticut 06520.
Telephone: (203) 432-2800.
Fax: (203) 432-9628 .
E-mail: [email protected]
Sources for Additional Study
Berthoff, Roland T. British Immigrants in Industrial America, 1790-1950. New York: Russell and Russell, 1968.
Bridenbaugh, Carl. Vexed and Troubled Englishmen, 1590-1642. London: Oxford University Press, 1976.
The British in America: 1578-1970, edited by Howard B. Furer. Dobbs Ferry, New York: Oceana Publications, 1972.
Cohen, Robin. Frontiers of Identity: The British and the Others. London: Longmans, 1994.
Erickson, Charlotte. Invisible Immigrants: the Adaptation of English and Scottish Immigrants in Nineteenth Century America. Coral Gables, Florida: University of Miami Press, 1972.
"English Americans." Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 20, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/english-americans
"English Americans." Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America. . Retrieved February 20, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/english-americans
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