English-speaking, yes; identical, no. USA/UK/Australia

One of the advantages of the current layout of this blog is that I can see so many posts at once on the front page. This makes a post like this much easier.

Back at Various finds and ruminations on … 4 (7 April) the subject was of course climate change, but a marvellously long debate ensued with, especially, Kevin from Louisiana. The arguing, needling and at times joking went on for days. It took an interesting if (superficially) irrelevant turn:

  • Kevin apologizing, sorta

    April 10, 2010

    I picked that up from your comments defending the Australians that don’t share their wealth like friendly Americans do. I’ll be happy to learn that I’m misinformed.

    Don’t lean on your ‘pensioner’ status too heavily. That just means that, assuming you didn’t plan well and are poor, that you’ve got more time than money on your hands. 10% of your time is even more powerful than 10% of your income. You can make a huge difference, albeit a hippie liberal one. Especially in a town as big as Sydney.

    Dangit, didn’t I say I was going to be less preachy? Apologies. Also, AGW is a scam.

  • Neil

    April 10, 2010

    “In Australia, the donation level is lower than the USA rate. This variance is largely due to differing social structures rather than a lack of fundamental generosity.”

    From the link you didn’t follow.

    You are right about donating time.

    We have strayed a long way from AGW, perhaps just as well. US-Australian difference is a good topic that I will post on soon. It isn’t appreciated enough, but is I think strongly felt here. See for example The United States vs Australia and The underdog.

  • Kevin apologizing, sorta

    April 10, 2010

    Heh. I’m sure the poor or starving people who don’t get any help from Australians will be happy to learn that it’s just because of ’social structures’.

  • Kevin no longer apologizing

    April 10, 2010

    Your worldview is retarded. I can’t make it any more clear than that.

  • Neil

    April 10, 2010

    You have the wrong end of the stick there, Kevin…

Differences between the USA and Australia

And so on. I have highlighted my two references above because I really do commend them as interesting. Nor are they heavy reads. Whether you agree or disagree with what you see there, you will find much to think about. For example:


Australia’s urban society commenced in an extremely polarised manner. On one end of the spectrum there were the "pure" settlers and on the other there were the Australians of convict descent. Unlike Australia, America’s urban society commenced in a relatively harmonious form. Pioneers found solidarity in their church groups.

With time, Australia has evolved to become relatively homogeneous while America has become extremely polarised. Although Australia has ideological divisions, these are no where near extreme as the ideological divisions in America that find expression in the Democrat and Republican Parties.

Australia became less polarised because it introduced political measures that made it difficult for extremists to gain political representation. Compulsory voting was one such measure. In America, voluntary voting means that the extremists are great assets to a political campaign. It is the extremists that get out to vote, and convince others to vote as well. To keep the extremists happy, the American political parties must pander to their interests, and this can result in a polarised society. In Australia; however, the extremists are not really important at all. The political party that they have chosen can simply take them for granted and ignore them. The party can then devote its resources on the swinging voters that will decide the election. As a consequence, it is the moderates from the middle-ground that need to be kept happy.  Consequently, both parties position themselves as moderates.

Preferential voting is another innovation that keeps extremists out of Australian parliament. The system forces voters to rank candidates in order of preference. When the ballots are collectively tallied, it is the candidate that is the least hated, rather than most liked, that represents the people. In the 1990s, the system kept the extremist Pauline Hanson out of parliament even though she won the most votes in her electorate.

The first paragraph is a bit of a wild generalisation about US history, mind you. And speaking of that, I have found a great read in Surry Hills Library.

ss10 Kathleen Burk, Old World, New World (Atlantic Monthly Press 2008)

Our close bond with Great Britain seems inevitable, given our shared language and heritage. But as distinguished historian Kathleen Burk shows in this groundbreaking history, the close international relationship was forged only recently, preceded by several centuries of hostility and conflict that began soon after the first English colony was established on the newly discovered continent.

Burk, a fourth-generation Californian and a professor of history in London, draws on her unrivaled knowledge of both countries to explore the totality of the relationship–the politics, economics, culture, and society–that both connected the two peoples and drove them apart. She tells the story from each side, beginning with the English exploration of the New World and taking us up to the present alliance in Iraq. She reveals the real motivations for settling North America, the factors that led to Britain’s losing the colonies, and the reasons why hawks in Congress took the two countries to war again in 1812.

Indeed, war between Britain and the United States loomed again later in the nineteenth century, and it took common enemies to bring them together in the twentieth. But the anchor of the alliance was human. Nineteenth-century British writers celebrated American energy while scorning its vulgarity; American writers appreciated the British sense of tradition while criticizing its aristocracy. Yet social reformers on both sides of the ocean worked together to end slavery and achieve female suffrage. Since 1945, the world has watched and wondered at the close bonds of the leaders–Kennedy and Macmillan, Reagan and Thatcher, and Bush and Blair.

The first joint history of its kind, Old World, New World is a vivid, absorbing, and surprising story of one of the longest international love-hate relationships in modern history.

Prize-winning too: Prof Kathleen Burk: Henry Adams Prize for Anglo-American history 2009.

Professor Kathleen Burk (UCL History) has won the Society for History in the Federal Government’s Henry Adams Prize 2008 for ‘Old World, New World’ (published by Little, Brown), which charts the relationship between Britain and America across four hundred years, from colonisation to the Iraq War.


The Henry Adams Prize recognises each a year an outstanding major publication that furthers the understanding and history of the US federal government, and demonstrates quality and thoroughness of research drawing on original and primary sources.

The prize will be formally presented to Professor Burk in Washington DC on 19 March 2009.

Professor Burk said: “The Society for History in the Federal Government have awarded me the Henry Adams Prize for 2008 for my book ‘Old World, New World: Great Britain and America From the Beginning’ – and it truly is from the beginning, covering from 1497, when John Cabot, a man from Bristol, ‘discovered’ North America, to March 2003, when Britain became a member of the ‘coalition of the willing’ in Iraq.

“I am particularly pleased that it is called the Henry Adams Prize.  Adams was part of a dynasty which produced a Founding Father, John Adams, who was also the second President of the United States; John Quincy Adams, sixth President and probably the US’s greatest Secretary of State; and Charles Francis Adams, the American Minister to Great Britain during the American Civil War. But Henry Adams was also arguably one of America’s greatest historians, and not the least of the pleasures involved in writing my book was the need to read all of his works.”

The Adams Prize commemorates the author of the classic multi–volume ‘History of the United States during the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison’. Adams completed his scholarly work in Washington, where he maintained close contact with the successors of federal officials whose activities he analysed in his history.

The Society for History in the Federal Government brings together government professionals with academics, students and others interested in fostering a better understanding of the federal government from a historical perspective.

For instance, Burk shows pretty convincingly that no-one actually won the War of 1812. Later she has a telling section on why social reform has been more difficult to achieve in the USA than in the UK – or Australia, for that matter, for similar reasons.

See also The Literary Review and The Independent.