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WASPs: Anglo-Saxon Protestant Culture in America

Updated on September 7, 2016
WASP idol: A young Queen Victoria as depicted by painter Franz Xaver Winterhalter.
WASP idol: A young Queen Victoria as depicted by painter Franz Xaver Winterhalter.
Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens
Sir Frank Dicksee's visual depiction of Romantic poet John Keat's poem, "La Belle Dame Sans Merci."
Sir Frank Dicksee's visual depiction of Romantic poet John Keat's poem, "La Belle Dame Sans Merci."

The Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture in America, of modern times, often goes unexamined. But Americans of English descent cherish in their hearts their backgrounds and the traditional English culture our people both left behind in Albion and brought to the American shores.

While not every Anglo-American is an Anglophile, very many are, and there is heritage, pride, and an endearment to almost every aspect of being a WASP. At its core, the love of our background has never changed. Let's delve into some of its most common aspects.

What Anglophile Americans of English Descent Hold Near and Dear:

  • English literature: Whether it's Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, the Romantic poets Blake, Wordsworth, Keats, or dear old Shakespeare, WASPs love to look back on the beauty, inspiration, and history reflected through the eyes of long-gone authors and the text of our beloved language. Even those nursery rhymes that have been passed on for 200 years, those are little tidbits of English literature that we don't forget to pass on to the next generation.

  • The "visit": The heart of a true American of English descent will flutter at the mention of the chance to travel back to the motherland. Whether it is once in a lifetime, or once a year, an Anglo-American in England feels like his or her spirit is truly at home.

  • The Episcopal Church: While Anglo-Saxon Protestants come in many denominations, the traditional Episcopal Church remains closest to the old motherland. After all, the Episcopal church is the official American version of the Church of England. We are led by the Archbishop of Canterbury. A great many Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Methodists are also English-descended,

  • British royalty: Whether it is Queen Victoria or Prince William and Kate, we love to delve into the traditions, the nuances, and especially the gossip created around the royals. Dabbling amateur royal genealogists abound within the Anglo-American sphere.

  • The English language: Most citizens don't give a second thought to the fact that Americans speak English, but to a true Anglophile, being in the new world -- still speaking the language of the old -- is a gift unto itself.

  • America's Golden Age: Often associated with a time period from the early 1800s to WWI. America's Golden Age was a time of wealth-building and formation of the middle-class due to the Industrial Age. Whether one was an accountant, a factory owner, or a store merchant, the Golden Age gave rise to an Anglo-American culture that spawned: its own value system of the spheres of work and home, expected manners in behavior and dress, an entire fashion industry, and leisure travel by rail, among other things.

Queen Victoria in my House

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Why Anglo-Saxons in America are Fond of a Country America Fought Against

The question I run into the most whenever I speak about Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture and being an Anglophile, is: "How could you be so fond of a country that we fought a bloody battle against to win independence from?" The answer for me and for so many Americans of English descent is that it is our heritage and culture we are remembering, and not the British government itself.

If you ask most citizens of any country, there are always complaints about governments, both familiar and foreign, but when you think about art, literature, architecture, and your own bloodline, you will find much more to be fond of than foe of.

But it also goes beyond that ...

When people hear of the term "brother fighting against brother," they think of the Civil War, how people as close as Northern and Southern family members were killing each other for their own governmental ends in a fight for freedom.

But if you look back even further, to a more forgotten time, for many Anglo-Americans of the past, the Revolutionary War was also brother fighting against brother. Benjamin Franklin, in fact, disowned his own son for siding with the crown during the Revolutionary War. It was a bittersweet battle. On the one hand the English hoped to gain freedom in the new world, on the other hand it was a symbolic, violent, and death-filled split from those of our own bloodline.

This is one reason why the WASP culture became so prevalent in America -- the English-descended citizens of America were establishing their own identity here, because it was irrevocably split from the motherland. They had to look to themselves for their new identity in a time of a new government.

So while we love traditional English culture, we also love without question, the identity of being Anglo-Saxon Protestant American.

An Anthem Many Americans of English Descent Know by Heart

Stereotypes of Anglo-Americans

These are popular stereotypes about Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture in America:

  • That English in everyday life isn't really a cultural facet: People don't understand that American literature and the very language we speak are all based upon English heritage. These facets have become so familiar they aren't even recognized as culture.

  • That being English isn't an ethnicity: White toast, bland, boring, white bread. All insulting and all wrong. English is an established ethnicity.

  • That they are stiff, non-expressive people: Even English-descended people living in the U.S. have inherited "reserved" body language and forms of expression: giving a lot of personal space to the next individual, keeping one's voice down, reacting calmly to almost everything, even in the face of mourning and disaster.

  • That they all play polo, fence, or lounge at country clubs all day: It is true that as a culture, Anglo-Americans often identify with loving or aspiring to these kinds of activities, but most people have very little time on their hands or the facilities around them to enjoy them. People of English descent are so widespread in America, that finding a fencing or polo club is usually out of their demographic reach.

A Note About the New Kind of Anglophile

While bloodline Anglophiles are obsessed with our own cultural history, another kind of Anglophile is popular among people of many different ethnicities across the world. Here is what they tend to love as a group, among many things:

  • British football (soccer). They never fail to cheer for them at international games.
  • British music: The Beatles, The Spice Girls, David Bowie, etc.
  • Pub culture: Ale, fish & chips, and good conversation.
  • Union Jack clothing: Wearing the British flag on their shirts, jeans, and handbags.
  • Doctor Who: This show is extremely popular with British sci-fi fans.


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