American English

Even though they entered the race for American colonies at a comparatively late date, the English made up for lost time by founding a number of successful colonial ventures and spreading their cultural influence and institutions throughout North America and the Caribbean. Where the English came from, where they went, and what they did when they got there was, for many decades, the only narrative of colonial American history. Recent scholarship has fostered a renewed interest in other colonial stories, including those of Native Americans, African slaves, the Dutch, the French, and the Spanish. Still, the English, in part due to their large numbers, in part because of fortuitous historical circumstances, came to dominate the eastern half of North America before 1776. After 1776, the American empire, featuring many of the characteristics of the British Empire that preceded it, spread Anglo-American people and institutions far to the west. English people came to what would eventually become the United States in four waves. These waves of immigration established four culture hearths, from which distinct British identities and practices would spread out in North America. Nearly all the immigrants spoke English and shared a basic set of British legal traditions and Protestantism, but they differed in their social status and region of origin. Differences in the American setting amplified regional distinctions in speech, architecture, cuisine, and other areas. In the 1630s, huge numbers of Puritans moved from East Anglia to Massachusetts, planting Puritan cultural imperatives, which would take root throughout the Northeast. In the decades that followed, a small number of elite royalists migrated to Virginia, bringing large numbers of rural laborers and indentured servants from the south of England. Framing the turn of the eighteenth century was a migration of people from the North Midlands and Wales to the Delaware Valley, where they established Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. The last large influx was from the fringes of Britain. Right up until the onset of the American Revolution, thousands of immigrants from Scotland and Ireland flooded the Appalachian backcountry, displacing Native American communities. Any effort to delineate culture in colonial America must come with the caveat that cultures evolve over time due to new influences and people’s choices. Even when viewed in freeze-frame, there are areas of overlap between cultural groups. Broad generalizations are necessary to span the long period of time (from Roanoke in 1585 to Lexington in 1775) and space (from the Caribbean to Canada) covered by the English colonial experience. British Culture in the Seventeenth Century English colonization in North America got off to an inauspicious start. A colony funded by Sir Walter Raleigh in Roanoke disappeared, and the Jamestown colonists died in droves. The Pilgrim Separatists who lived at Plymouth were more successful, but their impact on America’s popular imagination has far outstripped their actual influence. In what has been termed the Great Migration, tens of thousands of English Puritans left East Anglia for Massachusetts. Driven by the belief that they were God’s chosen people and facing increasing persecution at home, they strove to create a perfect society in America. Their desire to live holy lives governed many aspects of early English society in Massachusetts. In accordance with their religious beliefs, their East Anglian heritage, and their middleclass social status, the English Puritans set out to build their holy city. They moved to Massachusetts in families, settled in orderly towns devoted to farming or fishing, and weeded out dissenters. In Virginia, wealthy Cavaliers displaced by the English Civil War, along with indentured servants, established a different sort of society. Governor William Berkeley recruited well-to-do planters for the colony, rewarded them with large estates and positions of influence, and essentially crafted a rigidly hierarchical society based on plantation agriculture. The Virginia Cavaliers, nearly all of them Anglican, settled in a dispersed fashion along the Chesapeake region’s rivers and grew tobacco. At the lowest level of English society were numerous English indentured servants. Most of these unfortunate individuals were young men who signed away their freedom for a period of seven years to labor in fields of Virginia. As the seventeenth century progressed, African slaves gradually replaced white indentured servants. The Delaware Valley exhibited yet another set of English cultural traits. Quakers came from the North Midlands of England and Wales and moved to the Delaware Valley in family units, although not quite at the same rate as their neighbors in New England. Most Quakers were from the lower middle class, their proprietor, William Penn, being a notable upper-class exception. Penn’s vision, his holy experiment, influenced the region in countless ways. There was no military establishment, and commerce and agriculture existed in harmony. While not all of the colonists in the Delaware Valley were Quakers, most appreciated their values, especially their concept of inner light, a spiritual goodness implanted in every human being. The fourth culture hearth, the Appalachian backcountry, was colonized last, by Scots, Irish, Scots-Irish, and English immigrants from other outlying areas of Britain. This last migration was gigantic, numbering more than a quarter of a million people over a half-century. Unlike the other waves of immigrants, the backcountry colonists, as a group, seem not to have viewed themselves as a chosen people or participants in a holy experiment. Most, whether Catholic, Presbyterian, or Anglican, were trying to escape terrible economic conditions at home. It is a clich that the backcountry was a rough, violent place, populated by warriors of Celtic extraction. It is true that little government was initially established and that backcountry residents fought among themselves and against their Native American neighbors. British English vs American English « Network Milan How Well Can You Differentiate Between American And British … American English Beatles Tribute Band – Beatles Tribute Band …

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