Saturday, October 3, 2015

"Between Two Worlds" (English and American) on the John Batchelor Show

John Batchelor has a radio show on WABC-AM in New York, which I listen to via the internet. He interviews authors in depth on their books. He and Malcolm Gaskill have discussed Between Two Worlds: How the English Became Americans in three parts. This podcast covers the period of the English Civil War and how the English in British America reacted to the conflict back home. including the news that King Charles I had been executed. Gaskill and Batchelor note that the colonies had different reactions to the Civil War and the victory of Parliament/Cromwell and that some of the differences were influenced by religion (Anglican, Puritan, Catholic).

According to Oxford University Press:

Between Two Worlds is a story teeming with people on the move, making decisions, indulging or resisting their desires and dreams.

In the seventeenth century a quarter of a million men, women, and children left England's shores for America. Some were explorers and merchants, others soldiers and missionaries; many were fugitives from poverty and persecution. All, in their own way, were adventurers, risking their lives and fortunes to make something of themselves overseas. They irrevocably changed the land and indigenous peoples they encountered - and their new world changed them.

But that was only half the story. The plantations established from Maine to the Caribbean needed support at home, especially royal endorsement and money, which made adventurers of English monarchs and investors too. Attitudes to America were crucial, and evolved as the colonies grew in size, prosperity, and self-confidence.

Meanwhile, for those who had crossed the ocean, America forced people to rethink the country in which they had been raised, and to which they remained attached after emigration. In tandem with new ideas about the New World, migrants pondered their English mother country's traditions and achievements, its problems and its uncertain future in an age of war and revolution.

Using hundreds of letters, journals, reports, pamphlets and contemporary books, Between Two Worlds recreates this fascinating transatlantic history - one which has often been neglected or misunderstood on both sides of the Atlantic in the centuries since.

Joan Redmond of the University of Cambridge reviews the book here:

In the book, Gaskill sets out three major points of enquiry. The first is to examine what happened to English people in America, from those who settled in harsh New England, through to the development of the Caribbean colonies including Bermuda and Barbados. The second aims to investigate, in turn, the impact of America on those who remained at home. At the heart of this approach lies a critique of some English historians, who ‘lose interest’ in English migrants once they leave European shores, while some American scholars in turn are neglectful of the ‘backstory’ of these migrants (p. xiv). Gaskill’s argument is that the New World was not a cut-off sphere of action from Old England, but rather that events in the colonies had an impact on those ‘at home’, rather than purely vice versa. The third proposes to examine the idea of the extension of England to America: the importing of English ideas, values, and social and political structures into an American context. Gaskill questions the idea of an inherently ‘progressive’ America, arguing that many such ideas were already in circulation in England. Central to all of this is nostalgia. English migrants to the New World overwhelmingly set out to ‘re-create a world felt to be vanishing at home’. Seen in this light, emigration, while still requiring great depths of courage and adventurousness, becomes something more conservatively-driven, a ‘conservative counter-measure’ to changes at home in England (p. xiii). This in turn naturally affected the character of many of the colonies that were established in America, and later generational shifts would produce crises of identity as the New World moved further away from the Old, with England seen more as a distant cousin than a parent or sibling.

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