AnglophiliaDeference, Devotion, and Antebellum America

AnglophiliaDeference, Devotion, and Antebellum America

Elisa Tamarkin

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226789446

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


This book charts the phenomenon of the love of Britain that emerged after the Revolution and remains in the character of U.S. society and class, the style of academic life, and the idea of American intellectualism. But as the author shows, this Anglophilia was more than just an elite nostalgia; it was popular devotion that made reverence for British tradition instrumental to the psychological innovations of democracy. Anglophilia spoke to fantasies of cultural belonging, polite sociability, and, finally, deference itself as an affective practice within egalitarian politics. The author traces the wide-ranging effects of Anglophilia on American literature, art, and intellectual life in the early nineteenth century, as well as its influence in arguments against slavery, in the politics of Union, and in the dialectics of liberty and loyalty before the Civil War. By working beyond narratives of British influence, the author highlights a more intricate culture of American response, one that included Whig elites, college students, radical democrats, urban immigrants, and African Americans. Ultimately, the book argues that the love of Britain was not simply a fetish or form of shame—a release from the burdens of American culture—but an anachronistic structure of attachment in which U.S. identity was lived in other languages of national expression.