The Anglosphere considered, minus imperialism

Stanley Dubinsky can always be relied upon to point out things that provoke thought. I was particularly struck by this review from The Times of a book called REPLENISHING THE EARTH: The settler revolution and the rise of the Anglo-world. An excerpt:

Writing history is largely a matter of what filters you use. Different-coloured filters bring out different patterns. For most recent chroniclers and analysts of the Anglo-Americanization of the world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the filters used have been those that show up the “imperialism” of the process. The most startling novelty of James Belich’s Replenishing the Earth: The settler revolution and the rise of the Anglo-world is that it scarcely mentions imperialism at all, except to marginalize it (“with all due respect to the rich scholarship on European imperialism, in the very long view most European empires in Asia and Africa were a flash in the pan”); yet it still makes a pretty convincing job of explaining the huge and important process that is its subject. Even where it does not totally convince, it is immensely illuminating, as new filters invariably are. This is one of the most important works on the broad processes of modern world history to have appeared for years… – arguably since Sir Charles Dilke’s pioneering Greater Britain introduced a concept very like Belich’s “Anglo-world” to his Victorian contemporaries in 1868.

Dilke’s book was written before the word “imperialism” came into vogue, at least in connection with British overseas expansion. Empire carries essential connotations of power, or domination, whose major manifestation in Britain’s case was India – which again finds no place in Belich’s book, and hardly featured in Dilke’s either. Dilke was interested in something else: the migration of the British people over the globe, including North America; with the aid of some state power, certainly – the general protection afforded by the Royal Navy, occasional military expeditions to pull the migrants out of trouble, charters and treaties – but not in order to dominate anyone. Rather, the aim was to reproduce British-type “free” societies, usually freer than Britain’s own, in what were conveniently regarded as the “waste” places of the earth. Belich calls this “cloning”. It was an entirely different process from the more dominating sort of “imperialism”, representing a different philosophy, involving different social classes, and mainly affecting different regions of the world. Belich believes that it was a far more important influence than what is generally understood as imperialism on the whole course of modern history.

Consider this post a transparent effort to lure the “Anglospheric” Mike Cakora back to the blog. Haven’t heard from Mike in awhile…

One thought on “The Anglosphere considered, minus imperialism

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *