There’s just something about the United Kingdom that I can’t get enough of. I’m not sure when it began. In sixth grade, I did my country report on England. I’m not sure any other country was even a contender. I spent months making poster and after poster, until my English homage covered the entire front of the classroom as well as the fronts of the desks where I had carefully taped the 3-D map and word game that asked you to guess the American equivalent to the Britishism (i.e. lorry, boot, loo).

In college, I claimed to be a political science major for a month while I filled out the application to study British politics in London for a month. As soon as we got back, I dropped the double major but not my fascination with that part of the world. My first trip with my now-husband was to England and Wales. An accident? I think not. And where did we go for our honeymoon? That’s right. Ireland (yes, not part of the UK now but still in that magic realm of those isles), Northern Ireland, and Scotland.

Where does this anglophilia come from?

It turns out that anglophilia has a long history in the United States–it’s not, in fact, merely confined to bedrooms in Redmond, Washington. Anglophilia is about admiring England, its people and culture. The Federalists (Alexander Hamilton and John Adams, kind of), one of the first pseudo political parties in our nascent nation, were generally anglophiles, while their rivals, the Democratic Republicans (James Madison and Thomas Jefferson), admired the French. Even as we threw off English authority, England itself retained some symbolic value and a compelling object of attention throughout the 19th century and into the 20th.

Affinity with another nation allows people to feel some release from the burdens of their own nationality. Personally, whenever I feel fed up with American politics, I only need to pull up the BBC or the Guardian on my computer to happily immerse myself in David Cameron’s latest idea. This England in my mind and that of other anglophiles isn’t necessarily a true image of the country, however. Our anxieties and wishes are often imposed on our image of England. Anglophilia owes much of its energy to a backward belief in the aura of the British. The Englishness that Americans love may not exist at all.

The United Kingdom played an integral part in the United States’ history as well as the way we defined ourselves after breaking free. Benedict Arnold once said that “it is useful to remind ourselves that nations inspire love.” Even nations we didn’t want to be a part of anymore yet can’t seem to completely pull ourselves away.

2 thoughts on “Anglophilia

  1. Pingback: Self Perceptions, Past and Future | Erika Janik

  2. Pingback: Favorite History Reads of the Year | Erika Janik

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