Courtesy Reuters

Anglo-Saxon Attitudes

The Making of the Modern World

In This Review

God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World

By Walter Russell Mead
Knopf, 2007
464 pp. $27.95
Purchase

Walter Russell Mead laments at the beginning of God and Gold, "The study of British history and culture has about vanished from American schools today; as a result, many Americans are unaware of just how deep the connection between the two countries go." Mead sets out to dispel that ignorance, but his deeper purpose is to expound a thesis: that the modern world is the creation of the United Kingdom and the United States. This, Mead writes, is "the biggest geopolitical story in modern times: the birth, rise, triumph, defense, and continuing growth of Anglo-American power despite continuing and always renewed opposition and conflict." In his view, militarily, politically, economically, and culturally, their will has prevailed, first with the United Kingdom leading, then with the United States taking over. Americans need to know how and why this has been the case -- not only to understand themselves fully but also to appreciate the nature of the world they have created and to cope with the problems it presents.

To describe the United Kingdom and the United States as Anglo-Saxon countries is to describe not their ethnic makeup but their culture -- to underline how it differs from that of the world at large and even from that of the rest of the West. Mead sees Anglo-Saxon culture and its success across the globe as the product of four elements: a slowly evolved liberal political system amenable to compromise, adjustment, and innovation; a Protestant religious tradition that has become tolerant enough to accommodate different sects and accept the separation of church and state while retaining a strong sense of purpose; a capitalist system preoccupied with material wealth not for its own sake but because of "a passion for growth, for achievement, for change"; and a maritime strategy, initially borrowed from the Dutch, that has used both the freedom of action provided by detachment from the European mainland and ready access to the rest of the globe to manipulate the world's balance of

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