Europe and American Identity H1007

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1 Europe and American Identity H1007 Activity Introduction Well hullo there. Today I d like to chat with you about the influence of Europe on American Identity. What do I mean exactly? Well there are certain philosophies erm certain ideas and characteristics that sort of make up American identity. I m talking about things like nationalism and democracy, architecture, capitalist economy You see, understanding where these ideas originate is a big part of understanding what the U.S. is all about. Video 1 Introduction From the thirteen original colonies to the present-day United States, that philosophical, ideological, and even physical European influence has been ingrained in quote-unquote American identity. Here are some details about that. Video 1 Throughout the world, cultures and societies have adopted characteristics from each other. Whether it was encounters between tribes, ideas passed down through generations, or the changing of beliefs that took place within civilizations, no one culture has been able to avoid the impact of another. The culture of the United States is a perfect example of the influence that traditions and customs can have when brought over by a society. As the United States was forming an identity, Europeans were bringing over their own trunks full of past rituals, traditions, beliefs, and social customs. So what percentage of North Americans do you think came from Britain? Would you believe it's only around 20%? So where did everybody else come from then, and what did they contribute?

2 The ideas of democracy came from both Greece and Rome. Actually, our word senate comes from Rome. Also, in Europe, there was the humanist movement, which was the belief that the church was not the only thing; people mattered too. Many cultural ideas came from the different European countries, and one of the most important was religion. The French, Spanish and Irish were all Catholics. Northern European areas like Germany and the Netherlands were Protestant. The Puritans came mostly from England and influenced American Protestantism and Presbyterianism. There was even a Puritan spirit which developed in the United States that would grow to oppose alcohol and what they saw as other immoral acts. Judaism, the religion of Jewish people, came as well. The Quakers, a Protestant group, have had an effect on women's rights in the United States, and tolerance and passivism, the belief in peace. Many of the people who came continued the ways of life of their homelands. German and Welsh settlers used stone instead of wood to build their houses. Today in Germantown, Pennsylvania, 80% of the houses are made of stone. Dutch and Roman architecture can still be found in the area that began as the middle colonies. The way women were treated was very different across the colonies. Whether or not they worked in the fields depended on what the majority ethnicity was in that area. Certain beliefs also came with those who immigrated to the United States. The idea of capitalism came from Italy and the Dutch republic. Since people from the same country usually move to the same colony in the U.S., the different regions had different cultures. In New England, because of the Puritan foundations, there was a strong emphasis on defining what it meant to be free in America, a strong value of public service and selfgovernment. In Virginia, people were much more independent. They had a different sense of liberty and more aristocratic traditions. In Pennsylvania, William Penn, the Quaker leader, welcomed everyone. They had a wide variety of people and believed in "live and let live." West Virginia and the Carolinas were settled by the Scots-Irish. Sometimes they would fight with each other, other times they fought against the English. Because the Scots-Irish did not like England, they wanted no outside authority. Unfortunately, along with the good beliefs came the bad. Slavery had already existed in

3 Europe, along with the mentality that whites were superior to savages, Native Americans and Africans. Those ideas came to the colonies also. Many cultural ideas that traveled to the U.S. were fairly small things. Plaid, for example, came from Scotland and Ireland. Early colonial poetry was similar to British poetry. Pottery designs could be traced to places all over the world. Dialects, the way that people talk differently from each other in different parts of the country, still to this day are a direct example of the differing cultures that lived there. Other items of culture that became a deep part of U.S. culture are music, dance, literature, toys, and many words in our language. Even how we celebrate Christmas today is a continuation of German traditions. When the United States was forming, different groups migrated for a variety of reasons. As groups came, they brought with them, both consciously and unconsciously, characteristics of their cultures and homelands. This multitude of traditions, ideologies and traits molded the United States into the society it is today, a salad bowl made up of all people. Video 1 Recap Each group of people who came to the early colonies brought their own set of beliefs, methods for doing things, and general understanding of the world, with them. Whether their ancestry was Dutch, British, or German, for example, influenced how they built homes. Hopes they held about government or economy came from beliefs they developed in the Old World. And you can actually see a lot of these influences in the way the U.S. looks today. If that seems clear enough let me know and we ll keep going. Or I can repack and then unpack the trunk again. Just let me know what works best for you. Reading Passage 1 Introduction Lovely. Well then, this seems like a good time to take a step back actually. I ve mentioned a few concepts brought over from the Old World to the New World: nationalism and democracy for example So, it seems to me that a discussion of the

4 origins of these ideas is called for now! We ll just pack these up and go back in time then Following a period often lovingly referred to as the Dark Ages, or the Medieval period; European philosophy, art, literature, architecture, and so on went through a Renaissance. It was this period that eventually led to exploration and then of course colonization of the Americas. This bit about the Northern Renaissance should shed a little bit of light into the darkness! See you momentarily. Reading Passage 2 Introduction Naturally this humanistic approach and intellectual exploration led to a strong desire for exploration of our physical world. This idea that Europe could perhaps spread its influence and empire through new trade routes, took hold of countries like Italy, Spain, and Portugal. And the progression of thought from there was to actual migration and realization of new ways of life. Read all about that here. What The Class Thinks It s pretty cool to think that a shift in thinking can change the world. What, you mean like shifting to fuel-efficient cars? No. Well, I mean, yeah that s one shift in thinking. But I mean like, how we wouldn t even be here if they hadn t had a shift in thinking in Europe during the Renaissance. Ok I didn t get that all from what you said. What are you talking about? OK. So you know about the Renaissance. I mean this whole idea that humans were capable of great logic, and achievement. Well that led to the Age of Exploration, and then once European countries started exploring they started setting up colonies. Like the thirteen colonies that started the United States. You know! I mean, where were your ancestors from? Oh! My family is mostly Dutch, actually. We re from Pennsylvania originally. I think we go way back in this country. What about you?

5 Oh I m all mixed up. I think most of my family came over to the U.S. right around the time of the second World War, but I m pretty sure my Grandma is related to one of the first pilgrims. Yeah I see what you mean. I guess I never really thought about that. I mean, I knew that concepts like religious freedom and democratic government were all connected to stuff that happened in Europe before the colonies were really fully developed, but I hadn t really thought about the shift in thinking that led to that that is kinda cool! Activity Exit The black plague refers to one of the deadliest viral outbreaks in the history of the world. It is said that almost seventy million people died. Some believe that the devastation of the plague inspired many to think differently, sparking some of the philosophies of the Renaissance. Some scholars, along with the Church, were not always happy about the discoveries that scientists like Galileo were sharing. In sixteen-thirty-three, Galileo was brought to court and threatened with death unless he would publicly deny his scientific theories. He did publicly deny them, but privately remained sure of his discoveries. Indulgences were a common practice within the Church. It was a way for someone to pay the church for forgiveness of his or her sins. Many people felt this was in opposition to the core of Christianity, which promoted seeking salvation rather than buying forgiveness for bad deeds. The word Protestants comes from the word protest. As in protesting the authority of the Pope and other aspects of the Church with which most Lutherans disagreed. The Indies was a term used to refer to the lands of South and Southeast Asia.

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