mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
The Anglosphere On A Roll?

In this time of revolution, crisis and market upheaval, at least one traditional building block in world politics seems to be emerging stronger than ever.

This is the mysterious and perplexing “Anglosphere”, a group of countries where English is the first language of the majority of the population, political institutions and ideas are based in the ideas of the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and where much if not all of the law is rooted in traditional English (and Scottish) common law.

The core countries in the Anglosphere are Britain, Ireland, Canada, the United States and antipodean realms of Australia and New Zealand. These countries are not united in a single formal alliance; they do not coordinate their policy as a bloc; they have no common currency.  Some recognize Elizabeth II as their head of state; the US and Ireland fought wars to turf the royals out and if it came down to it we’d both fight another war to keep them from moving back in.

This odd and ill-assorted bloc isn’t represented as such in any international institutions; there are no membership cards.  The chances are that if you study international relations you won’t spend much time thinking or reading about this group — but historically and in the present day they matter much more than some of the groups the texts dwell on.

Ethnically and culturally the English speaking countries grow more diverse over the years yet the common language, common law, common culture — and the internet — seem to hold them together.  And stick together they do: there is more real cooperation within the Anglosphere than you’ll find in much more formal international gatherings ranging from ASEAN and UNASUR to the Arab League and the AU.

Collectively the Anglosphere countries rule: the world’s best universities, best athletes, best scientists and best known musicians and writers come disproportionately from the English speaking world.

There are two mistakes people always make about the Anglosphere: to try to turn it into something and formal, and to think it will disappear.  There isn’t going to be an English Speaking Union — but the Anglosphere looks more relevant than ever in the 21st century.

If anything, it’s pulling itself together.  Some of this we must blame on the Windsors; the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge helped soften Australia’s republican streak and stroked the Canadians into ecstasies of love.  (Canada is going to ‘reroyalize’ its armed services; the Canadian Army, Navy and Air Force are going to be the Royal Canadian Army and so forth, the Financial Times reports.)  Elizabeth II’s recent visit to Ireland was an extraordinary success; this may be the first time ever that a British monarch could give the Pope a run for his money in an Irish popularity contest.

These days the Anglosphere is more or less in tune politically.  Two of the most conservative members, American and Australia, are governed by center-left parties; meanwhile the historically more liberal big members, Canada and Britain, are run by the center-right.  There will be spats; there always have been.  (Wasn’t there some kind of tea party back in the past?)  None of the members want to turn the Anglosphere into something formal and exclusive; nobody even wants regular summits.  But more than 400 years after QE1 gave Sir Walter Raleigh permission to start the colonization of North America, the venture she helped to launch remains the most important group of countries in the world.

Somewhere, Winston Churchill is smiling.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Toni

    What else the Anglophone countries have in common is backbone, isn’t it?

    Don’t ask me to define or describe this “backbone.” Except that it’s something to do with taking responsibility and taking charge of one’s fate.

    Churchill was the exemplar. It’s thanks to his backbone that we aren’t all speaking German.

  • SgtDad

    “Royal Canadian Army.” Nitpick: There will again be an RCAF & RCN, but no “Royal Canadian Army,” just as there is no “Royal Army.” The word “Royal” in the army is reserved for specific regiments.

  • Jordan

    Not only have the adult generations been quite united recently, but I would pose that the imaginary world of wizards brought about by Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling was pretty dominant in the culture of our children for the past 13 years.

    The merits of this should not be ridiculed, as the series has been extremely influential in encouraging our youngsters to read.

  • Noah

    How about India? They seem to be solidifying more and more into an Anglosphere country.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    There is no arguing with success.
    What happens when a superior culture meets an inferior culture?
    We are the Anglophone, you will be assimilated, your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to ours, resistance is futile.
    Walter says that this is the greatest fear of every other culture on Earth, vanishing into the superior American Culture.
    Mankind is now evolving thousands of times faster culturally than it is genetically. And it is the TEA Party spawning American Culture that is mankind’s bleeding edge.

  • Walter Sobchak

    Now all we have to do is get Churchill’s bust back into the White House.

  • J R Yankovic

    Now THERE’S some news to cheer me up. And to think that that wonderful, barnacled, curmudgeonly, future-FOREBODING old reactionary Churchill is still a symbol of hope in some circles. Not enough of them, sadly.

    And yet what a healthy antidote he remains to the bloated, swaggering future-CONFIDENCE of our own glorious era. If only he could have been locked in a room for an hour or two with Ayn Rand and Alvin Toffler (or H G Wells, for that matter). Though as I recall, not a few of the most forward-looking optimists of his day were also resigned to the inevitability of – or still hopeful of appeasing – the Nazis (no doubt they could eventually be sublimated and democratized, like our modern Chinese).

    I’ll admit I’m an unrepentant (Tory) Anglospheroid. Now if we could just steer clear of arrogance, self-worship, and the mad dream of homogenizing the world (ever notice, in that department, how we always get more – and worse – than we bargained for?). But then I’m also one who PRAYS that the decade 1995-2005 will live in infamy . . .

  • J R Yankovic

    Not to overindulge a one-track mind, but I keep coming back to this subject of Churchill.

    What I imagine, in my little scenario, is a colleague of his – not too close, of course, but esteemed: maybe a Lord Halifax, or a Lloyd George? – remonstrating with him at the height of the Blitz. The former’s basic message being: “Much as you and I both detest Hitler, unfortunately the whole tide of 20th-century history is against you. This is above all an Age of speed and haste, and impatient answers. It’s no world for old men like us, with long memories. No wonder dictators thrive in it. Would Stalin be more to your liking? Please understand, Winston: Hitler is a sometime thing, an excrescence, a mad but predictable irritant that the broader current of things will smoothe over in due time. But frankly you, and what you’re doing right now (much as I sympathize with you), are no better than froth and foam on that tide. And I fear maybe worse than that – a poisonous foam, because at bottom your project is quixotic in the worst sense: not just hopeless but self-destructive. My sense is that you’re bringing shame and ruin not just on your own career, and the futures of all of us, but on the Nation as a whole.”

    To conclude my imaginary Lloyd George’s sermon: “In an imperfect world, for the sake of peace and progress, sometimes you have to stop quarreling or even questioning. Sometimes you simply have to ADAPT OR DIE.”

    My own simpleminded, and of course thoroughly predictable, question: What is it about our socially Darwinian Age? Of course we have an abundance of “Lloyd Georges.” But why isn’t there anybody willing to stand “athwart the stream,” as against merely the incessant urging to adjust our speeds? I.e., to adapt or die? Why is there seemingly nobody out there both knowledgeable, articulate and persuasive enough (well, definitely counts me out), who might be willing to remind us that EVEN NOW the race isn’t ALWAYS to the (technologically) swift, or to the “dynamically” unscrupulous – any more than it was in 1940? (Much less in 1957 – though isn’t it funny, it was precisely those countries that didn’t fetishize efficiency and technical prowess that best rose to their respective occasions of using technology well.) In short, just for once couldn’t we all use somebody to stand up – oh, hell, even to speak up – for perennial human decency, and not JUST for the Age’s most pressing human dynamisms? I don’t mean only Churchills, of course, but Orwells, even C S Lewises. Where are today’s Russell Kirks, or Irving Kristols, or even Irving Howes? Or even a single Daniel Patrick Moynihan?

  • AB

    Come on, seriously? The USA is just a member of your so-called sphere? Sorry…the USA is the owner and the other so called members are basically its lap poodles. Now, please put your pathetic British Empire dreams to rest.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service