Anglo-American Essay

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This essay refers to the cultural relationship between peoples who share their origins in the United Kingdom (UK), the United States, and English Canada. It does not refer to the multinational natural resources company (Anglo-American PLC) headquartered in London, UK, which was originally established in South Africa. Further, the meaning of the term Anglo-American varies depending on the context in which it is used, and the boundaries of who is included in the definition change over time.

In its earliest use, the term Anglo-American described people originally from England, Scotland, or Wales. Most settled in North America in the late 1700s. The term Anglo-American is also used to describe a region in the Americas in which English is the main language or which has significant historical, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural links to England, the UK, or the British Isles in general. For example, political leaders such as Ronald Reagan have used the term to portray the “special relationship” between the United States and the UK.

Anglo-America is distinct from Latin America, a region of the Americas where languages derived from Latin (namely French, Spanish, and Portuguese) are prevalent. Anglo-American is sometimes shortened to Anglo, which is a much broader term that refers to Americans who are not of Hispanic or French descent, most of whom speak the English language. Thus, in parts of the United States with large Hispanic populations, an American of Polish, Irish, or German heritage might be termed an Anglo just as readily as a person of English descent. However, use of the term Anglo generally ignores the distinctions between Anglo Americans, Irish Americans, German Americans, and other northern European descendants. Thus, many people included in the definition do not identify themselves as Anglo, and some may find the term offensive. Consequently, more specific names have been assigned to some ethnic groups who prefer not to be categorized under the much broader term of Anglo, resulting in Anglo Americans, Irish Americans, and numerous others.

According to 2005 U.S. Census data, 75 percent of Americans classified themselves as Anglo-American compared to 12 percent as African American, 15 percent as Latin American, 4 percent as Asian American, and 9 percent as multiracial/other. Thus, the term Anglo-American is a common expression that encompasses a significant proportion of the U.S. population and has for many centuries profoundly influenced and shaped the legal, economic, healthcare, educational, religious, political, and cultural values of the United States of America. While Anglo Americans remain the majority group in the multiethnic United States society, the proportion of Anglos in the total population is expected to decrease as the population of immigrants from Asia, South America, Africa, and other non-European countries expands.

Past research has shown that Anglo-American cultural values and patterns of thinking and behavior are very different from the cultural heritage of many other ethnic minority groups, each having its own customs and traditions. For example, hamburgers, hot dogs, rock music, fast food, football, sitcoms, and morning coffee are all part of Anglo-American culture. Existing research suggests that most Anglo Americans take their culture for granted as simply part of their life, and thus, may fail to recognize its unique features. Becoming aware of differences between Anglo Americans in relation to other cultures is important so that not all people in America are assumed to be the same, and therefore treated the same. Indeed, as the dominant culture in the United States, Anglo Americans tend to be considered as being all alike with little awareness of any differences between them. Such tendencies have led to cultural clashes, stereotyping, and racism.

Essentially, the English were the first Europeans to colonize the Americas in large numbers even though they were preceded in the southwest by smaller numbers of Spaniards. Anglo Americans had British roots that led to cultural values such as the nuclear family that were largely derived from pre-industrial Britain. There are some common Anglo-American beliefs, values, and practices that are shared and have been passed on to succeeding generations as dominant Anglo-American values, and have been cited by many writers and scientists of Anglo-American culture. Most broadly, Anglo-American culture is described as individualistic (independent, self-reliant) compared to, say, Africans and Latinos, whose culture is more often portrayed as collectivist (interdependent, community focused). Therefore, Anglo Americans are often viewed by these cultural groups as autonomous to the extent that they have difficulty valuing or conforming to group norms and other ways of living. Anglo Americans also value freedom and assertiveness, as well as equal gender roles and rights.


  1. “Anglo-America,” Micropædia, Encyclopædia Britannica, Vol. 1, 15th ed. (Encyclopædia Britannica, 1990);
  2. “Anglo America,” Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia, (cited March 2009);
  3. N. Bellah, “Is There a Common American Culture?” Journal of the American Academy of Religion (v.66/3, 1998);
  4. A. Hague, ed., American Character and Culture in a Changing World: Some Twentieth Century Perspectives (Greenwood Press, 1979);
  5. P. Kottak, ed., Researching American Culture: A Guide for Student Anthropologists (University of Michigan Press, 1982);
  6. “North America,” The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. (Columbia University Press, 2001–05).

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