The Anglosphere is the set of English-speaking nations that share common cultural and historical roots with the British Isles, and which today maintain close cultural, political, diplomatic and military cooperation. While the nations included in different sources vary, the Anglosphere is usually not considered to include all countries where English is an official language, although the nations that are commonly included were all once part of the British Empire. Most definitions include the five main countries, namely Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The term can also cover the Republic of Ireland and English-speaking Caribbean countries such as The Bahamas, Barbados, and Jamaica.
Definitions and variable geometry
The term Anglosphere was first coined, but not explicitly defined, by the science fiction writer Neal Stephenson in his book The Diamond Age, published in 1995. John Lloyd adopted the term in 2000 and defined it as including the United States and the United Kingdom along with English-speaking Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa and the British West Indies. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the Anglosphere as "the countries of the world in which the English language and cultural values predominate".[a]
The five main countries in the Anglosphere (the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom) maintain a close affinity of cultural, diplomatic and military links with one another. All are aligned under such programs as:
- The UKUSA Agreement (signals intelligence),
- Five Eyes (intelligence),
- Combined Communications Electronics Board (communications electronics),
- The Technical Cooperation Program (technology and science),
- Air and Space Interoperability Council (air forces),
- AUSCANNZUKUS (navies) and
- ABCA Armies.
Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom retain Elizabeth II as head of state, form part of the Commonwealth of Nations and use of the Westminster parliamentary system of government. In the wake of the United Kingdom's decision to leave the European Union as a result of a referendum held in 2016, there has been mounting political and popular support for a loose free travel and common market area to be formed between them known as CANZUK.
Below is a table comparing the five main countries of the Anglosphere. Data are for 2018 unless otherwise stated.
|Country||Population||Land Area (km2)||GDP (USD bn)||GDP per capita (USD)||National Wealth
2017 (USD mn)
|Five Eyes (FV)||459,815,862||26,428,470||$26,799.567||$58,283||$129,269||$707,309|
|FV as % of World||6.0%||17.7%||19.9%||329.6%||40.8%||41.6%|
Public opinion research has found that people in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand consistently rank each other's countries as their country's most important allies in the world. Relations have traditionally been warm between Anglosphere countries, with bilateral partnerships such as those between Australia and New Zealand, the US and Canada and the US and UK constituting among the most successful partnerships in the world.
Favourability ratings tend to be overwhelmingly positive between countries within a subset of the Anglosphere known as CANZUK (consisting of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom), whose members form part of the Commonwealth of Nations and retain Elizabeth II as head of state. While the United Kingdom's decision to leave the European Union in 2016 has had little impact on its favourability ratings with other members of the Anglosphere, there has been a marked drop in the United States favourability ratings with other Anglosphere nations since the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States in 2016. In 2017, the United States had negative favourability ratings with the CANZUK countries.
The American businessman James C. Bennett, a proponent of the idea that there is something special about the cultural and legal traditions of English-speaking nations, writes in his 2004 book The Anglosphere Challenge:
The Anglosphere, as a network civilization without a corresponding political form, has necessarily imprecise boundaries. Geographically, the densest nodes of the Anglosphere are found in the United States and the United Kingdom. English-speaking Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and English-speaking South Africa (who constitute a very small minority in that country) are also significant populations. The English-speaking Caribbean, English-speaking Oceania and the English-speaking educated populations in Africa and India constitute other important nodes.— James C. Bennett.
Bennett argues that there are two challenges confronting his concept of the Anglosphere. The first is finding ways to cope with rapid technological advancement and the second is the geopolitical challenges created by what he assumes will be an increasing gap between anglophone prosperity and economic struggles elsewhere.
British historian Andrew Roberts claims that the Anglosphere has been central in the First World War, Second World War and Cold War. He goes on to contend that anglophone unity is necessary for the defeat of Islamism.
According to a 2003 profile in The Guardian, historian Robert Conquest favoured a British withdrawal from the European Union in favour of creating "a much looser association of English-speaking nations, known as the 'Anglosphere'".
New Zealand historian James Belich connected patterns of growth in the industrialisation of the United States and the United Kingdom with former Dominions of the British Empire; New Zealand, Australia, Canada and South Africa, and more loosely to growth in former UK constituent country Ireland, as well as British-allied Argentina, during the 19th and early to mid-20th century, in his book Replenishing the Earth. He used the term "Anglo-World" to refer to the US, UK and former Dominions, arguing that the experience and present reality of former British colonies like India, Kenya, and Jamaica differ in substantial and important ways from this core group of countries.
In 2000, Michael Ignatieff wrote in an exchange with Robert Conquest, published by the New York Review of Books, that the term neglects the evolution of fundamental legal and cultural differences between the US and the UK, and the ways in which UK and European norms have been drawn closer together during Britain's membership in the EU through regulatory harmonisation. Of Conquest's view of the Anglosphere, Ignatieff writes: "He seems to believe that Britain should either withdraw from Europe or refuse all further measures of cooperation, which would jeopardize Europe's real achievements. He wants Britain to throw in its lot with a union of English-speaking peoples, and I believe this to be a romantic illusion".
In 2016, Nick Cohen wrote in an article titled "It’s a Eurosceptic fantasy that the ‘Anglosphere’ wants Brexit" for The Spectator’s Coffee House blog: "‘Anglosphere’ is just the right's PC replacement for what we used to call in blunter times ‘the white Commonwealth’." He repeated this criticism in another article for The Guardian in 2018. Similar criticism was presented by other critics such as Canadian academic Srđan Vučetić.
In 2018, amidst the aftermath of the Brexit referendum, two British professors of public policy Michael Kenny and Nick Pearce published a critical scholarly monograph titled Shadows of Empire: The Anglosphere in British Politics (ISBN 978-1509516612). In one of a series of accompanying opinion pieces, they questioned:
The tragedy of the different national orientations that have emerged in British politics after empire—whether pro-European, Anglo-American, Anglospheric or some combination of these—is that none of them has yet been the compelling, coherent and popular answer to the country’s most important question: How should Britain find its way in the wider, modern world?
They stated in another article:
Meanwhile, the other core English-speaking countries to which the Anglosphere refers, show no serious inclination to join the UK in forging new political and economic alliances. They will, most likely, continue to work within existing regional and international institutions and remain indifferent to – or simply perplexed by – calls for some kind of formalised Anglosphere alliance.
- British diaspora in Africa
- English-speaking world
- Border Five, Five Nations Passport Group, Five Country Conference
- Five Power Defence Arrangements
- History of the English Speaking Peoples (Winston Churchill)
- JUSCANZ, CANZUK
- List of countries by English-speaking population
- List of countries where English is an official language
- Francosphere (French), Hispanosphere (Spanish), Lusosphere (Portuguese)
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