From U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” to Brexiteers’ “Global Britain” and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “Great rejuvenation of the Chinese people,” nostalgic nationalism has become a major force in politics around the world. Appeals to past national glories animate far-right populist movements in Europe, fueling Russian President Vladimir Putin’s expansionism in his neighborhood, and animating Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman ambitions. Such a world is prone to conflict. Yet nostalgia can still be consistent with some form of international cooperation, especially where culture, history, and values overlap. And in that context, the re-emergence of an Anglosphere—a long-held dream for many proud Britons—is no longer so far-fetched.
The idea of the Anglosphere dates back to the collapse of the British Empire. In his voluminous History of the English-Speaking Peoples, former Prime Minister Winston Churchill weaved through 2,000 years of history a thread of Anglophonism that then inspired the Euroskeptics who opposed the entry of the United Kingdom into the European Economic Area in 1973. In their view, London should have rather focused on the Commonwealth, integrating with what Churchill once called its true “kith and kin.” More recently, nostalgic nationalism, including nostalgia for the Commonwealth, dominated the Leave campaign, with Boris Johnson, now foreign minister, stating that when London joined the Common Market, it betrayed “our relationships with Commonwealth countries such as Australia and New Zealand.”
But the dream of creating an Anglosphere has stimulated the imaginations of non-Brits too. Despite their growing activism in the Indo-Pacific region, both Australia and New Zealand have always been attached to the Anglo-Saxon world. In his 2009 memoir, Battlelines, Tony Abbott, the former Australian prime minister, enthusiastically praised Canberra’s alliance with Washington and its ties with London. Canada, given its French cultural heritage, has been more ambivalent about its commitment to the Anglosphere. But Erin O’Toole, a candidate for the Canadian Conservative Party leadership, has made one of the key planks of his campaign
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