Curt Cardwell’s review of Martin J. Sklar’s Creating the American Century is thoughtful, insightful, and fair. It will hopefully guide more readers to a through a challenging but important book. I offer one minor corrective – to the statement that “Sklar deserves criticism for such comments at that ‘the Anglo-American, or ‘Anglo-Saxon’ was (is) the most advanced … race’ in the last two or three hundred years of human history.”
In addition to critical thinking, deep diving into sources, and long footnotes, a particular use of quotation marks is a common feature in Sklar’s writing. I refer to the use of quotation marks to denote a common understanding of a term when that understanding is not shared by Sklar. In letters (many of which I received over the years), Sklar often provided parenthetical explanations for such uses of quotation marks. In his published writings, the distinction between a common understanding and Sklar’s understanding is sometimes implicit or buried in a footnote.
In the present case, the term Anglo-Saxon appears in the book 15 times (that I have been able to find). In eight cases (on pages 9, 43, 90, 92, and 101), it appears within a quotation attributed to a historical figure, such as Conant or Adams. In five cases, including the one quoted by Cardwell, the phrase is in Sklar’s voice – within quotation marks. At two points, Sklar contextualizes the historical usage of the term, in a way that explains his own (contemporary) addition of quotation marks. On Hay’s attribution of civilizational leadership to Anglo-Saxons: “This was not a matter of genetics, but of historical circumstance (hence, the word ‘to-day’), just as productive supremacy in the past had resided with other ‘races,’ and would so in the future” (89). More generally: “Conant and Adams, like others, as was common at the time, used the term ‘race’ not only to mean the then relatively new (and today genomically discredited) categories of late nineteenth-century biology and anthropology (e.g. ‘Caucasian’), or categorizations by putative skin-color (as in the US), but also what today is more usually thought of as nationality or broad culture (ethnicity). They referred, for example, to the English race, the French race, the German race, the Spanish race, the Italian race, etc. In their usage, ‘Anglo-Saxon’ meant essentially the dominant sociopolitical strata in the UK and the US, and in such offshoots as Australia, New Zealand, and British Canada” (105-6).
In two instances, Sklar uses “Anglo-Saxon” in his own voice and without quotation marks. First, as part of a critique of right-wing historical nostalgia (177). Second, to highlight the historically progressive character of constitutional states and interstate organizations by contrasting the existence of the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference to the non-existence of an Organization of the Christian Conference of an intergovernmental Anglo-Saxon League (234).