The Agenda

Razib Khan on What It Means to Be ‘Anglo-Saxon’

Razib Khan has a post on how we use the term “Anglo-Saxon“:

Does it really matter how many sons the Anglo-Saxons fathered if the local Celtic chiefs raised their own children as Germans? There is some evidence that the lineage of Alfred the Great himself derived from a set of southwest British Celtic chiefs who were Germanized (e.g., many of the early kings who Alfred claims as ancestors have Celtic names). The victory of Saxon blood may not have been substantial, but the victory of Saxon speech was! Even the layout of the countryside changed with the coming of the Saxons. To deny this reality seems farcical, but only if you deny the importance of blood in necessarily and sufficiently determining national identity.

Rather than understand “Anglo-Saxon” as a quasi-racial designation, Razib argues that it should be understood as a cultural community that has spread its reach and influence via its “assimilative power.” He also notes that the modest share of Americans who claim English origin is primarily a reflection of changing cultural tastes:

The number of people who identify as English has crashed since 1980. Why? The winds of cultural change. If you are of German and English heritage, you will usually say you are German American. If Irish and English, again, Irish (not to mention “Americans” who are actually English).

One wonders if this decline in the prestige or relative attractiveness of English identity will ever be reversed, or indeed if it can be. 

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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