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Made in Britain

Nation and Emigration in Nineteenth-Century America


Stephen Tuffnell


California University Press, 2020

Hardcover. xiii+302 p. ISBN 978-0520344709. $49.95/£41


Reviewed by Marie Ruiz

Université d’Amiens


Stephen Tuffnell’s Made in Britain : Nation and Emigration in Nineteenth-Century America is a thorough, original and engaging account of the part played by American expats in the creation of transatlantic diplomacy in post-independence 19th-century Britain. The book - peppered with specific case studies, useful statistics and factual analyses, as well as compelling anecdotes - is both an enjoyable and instructive read.

Starting with analyses of the fear of American invasion in early 20th-century Britain, anxieties prompted by the massive arrival of expats from the United States, the book then goes on to examining the roots of Anglo-American public and diplomatic relations in the 19th century as well as the influence of the Industrial Revolution on Anglo-American relationships. It ends with the ensuing reversal of domination pattern implemented by the growing impact of American soft power, as well as cultural and economic imperialism in Britain.

Unlike traditional accounts of migration involving the United States, in Made in Britain the United States in not the receiving country, but Tuffnell focuses on the integration of the American diaspora in Britain and its impact on diplomatic and cultural relationships between Britain and the United States. According to him, American emigrants had a “disproportionate influence over the nature of the United States’ transnational linkages and foreign relation” [19]. Expats partook in the construction of the nation as an independent entity from Britain. From this vantage point, defining American nationalism ambivalently combined contested Anglo-Saxonist roots and pride in the American Revolution  -  a celebration of democracy against tyranny. The fivechapters that make up the book offer a multifactorial analysis of the evolution of Anglo-American relations sealed by expats and return migrants from the United States to its former colonial metropole, Britain.

Chapter I focuses on the interplay between two interconnected notions, “dependence” and “interdependence” around the transition between decolonisation and nation-building. It traces back Britain’s path from the Industrial Revolution to the domination of banking and the service industry, London becoming “the capital of American credit” [28]. Interdependence was also manifest through the nineteenth-century Black Atlantic, whose hub Tuffnell locates in London, Britain at times standing as a racial refuge for American abolitionists. The most enduring transatlantic ties were nevertheless built from commercial connections established by merchants, which fostered steadfast circulation of knowledge and established a community of trade (such as the cotton trade) and transatlantic careers in a web of “national, international, and global social and professional networks” [44].

The political economy of transatlantic connections is further explored in the following chapter, which focuses on American expats’ contribution to defining American nationality. The chapter indeed explores a community representative of Americanness in aristocratic Britain as well as the emergence of a distinct sense of nationalism. Tufnell raises the question of allegiance, central for elite American settlers in Britain who were expected to display American independence and behave as valued representatives of democratic United States abroad while contributing to defining the nature of transatlantic diplomacy. Yet, American expats were sometimes faced with condescension as hierarchical structures between the former colonizer and its colony endured in Britain. This chapter informs us on what Tuffnell calls the “social world of diplomacy” [75] at a transitional time when American nationalism was transnational in essence and diplomats as well as socio-economic elites in Britain both cemented and redefined the relationship between Britain and the United States in a context marked by postcolonial anxieties; American claim to nationhood; and hostility towards transatlantic aristocracy. In the mid-19th century, the American expats made their inclusion in the British society visible via the intervention of intermediary structures such as the American Association in London (AAL) which aimed at defending the expats’ civic rights and representation in Britain.

Conflict and colonialism are at the centre of chapter III entitled “Emigrants’ war”, which explores Anglo-American imperial collaboration in civilizing what they considered inferior races. The chapter pertinently starts with the study of Britain’s commercial and military involvement in the Civil War, with Union and Confederate diplomats aiming for connections, support and sympathies in Britain. Tuffnel reveals how informal diplomatic activity paved the way for spaces of political contestation in Britain with the setting up of networks offering a stage for anti-slavery and abolitionist activists. 

The interplay between public diplomacy and philanthropy is the focus of the ensuing chapter, which hinges on the impact of the Civil War on the establishment of a shared transatlantic racial identity, with the domination of whiteness and Anglo-Saxonism over perceived inferior races. Philanthropy also acted as an intermediary facilitator of transatlantic diplomacy as was the case when the United States gathered support and relief funds for the 1862 cotton famine in Britain. In turn, this humanitarian diplomatic gesture reinforced transatlantic links and inspired sympathy for the Union, the philanthropic network developed by London-Americans being a case in point for the widespread Union support in Britain.

The notions of migration and invasion have long been studied as complementary in the context of colonization and such is the object of chapter V. British reaction at the perceived invasion of American competitive commerce was indeed paradoxically counterbalanced by American economic dependence on Britain's funding and loans. This final chapter concludes the study of nineteenth-century Anglo-American relations with the celebration of a “new global imperial partner” [183], American economic domination confirming its lasting independence from Britain. The newly established and unified Anglo-American relations were best illustrated by hybrid symbols such as Bernard Partridge’s Colonel Jonathan J. Bull, a combination of John Bull and Brother Jonathan published in Punch on 7 January 1899 [182].

The book ends with an epilogue on the evolution from emigration and colonization to americanization. The political economy at the core of Anglo-American interdependence progressively made visible the United States’ growing share in world markets as well as Britain’s decreasing part in world trade. For instance, the americanization of Britain in Edwardian Britain was exemplified by the 1902 Crystal Palace exhibition entitled “America in London”, which both displayed American technological advances and celebrated transnational cultural and diplomatic connections. The epilogue aptly concludes the reader’s journey towards a reversal of domination patterns in transatlantic relationships with examples of economic and cultural americanization of Britain, such as the building of the London underground undertaken by an American firm - an exemple of conspicuous American technological expertise and economic investment in Britain.

This book is an important contribution to our understanding of the evolution and defining features of contemporary Anglo-Saxonism. Tuffnell’s Made in Britain is a rich and well-written account that encompasses such notions as race, national identity, transatlantic nationality as well as political economy in migration studies. It makes the case for American expats’ creation and maintenance of lasting transnational connections, their influence on the definition of Americanness and nationalism abroad, and the diplomatic power of migration.

One major study on a similar topic is yet missing from Tuffnell’s bibliography, David Fitzpatrick’s The Americanisation of Ireland : Migration and Settlement, 1841–1925 (Cambridge University Press, 2019). Links with Fitzpatrick’s work on Ireland’s americanization were indeed expected and would have perfectly completed this study by opening up parallels with similar contexts of American cultural and economic imperialism as well as the impact of migration from the United States on the shaping of European national identities.


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