It has been a few years since I’ve actually been in the United States to celebrate the 4th of July. For the past two years, at least I’ve been in a protectorate – Puerto Rico. This year tops them all. I’m in England for the 4th of July to celebrate America’s independence… from England?
I’ve always wondered what the British think about the American Revolution. We’ve been allies in enough wars, so it seems that they are over it. Right? While flying back from an epic trip to Australia a few years ago, I was chatting with two British guys who were on a year long “holiday.” They planned to do a cross country journey across the continental US and see some major destinations along the way. When discussing what they wanted to do on the East Coast, they mentioned seeing sites from the Second Civil War. I had to pause mid conversation. Second Civil War, Second Civil War? What in the world are these guys talking about?! Then it hit me. For the British, the First Civil War was during the mid-1600s when they overthrew King Charles I of the Stuart Dynasty in favor of Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth. It resulted in the English Bill of Rights and a constitutional monarchy. And of course, the Second Civil War would have been with the British colonists who were fighting against their mother country of Britain in 1776. These guys were calling the American Revolution the Second Civil War. I explained to them that most Americans would have NO idea what they were talking about if they asked to see sites from Second Civil War and they were lucky that I was able to figure it out since I’m a history teacher. Does that mean that all British people think of the American independence movement as a civil war?
Tonight, in honor of America’s big break up with England, a lot of the American students in my program skipped out on the Oxford dinner in favor of an Independence Day BBQ at a local pub (in the rain – just like a 4th of July in Florida). The pub decorated a room with red, white, and blue flags and had hamburgers and Coke for dinner! You can’t get much more American than that (well, add in my American flag headband. That takes it to a whole other patriotic level). While at the pub, one of the servers jokingly made a comment about how England isn’t happy about this holiday. I followed up with the Second Civil War question. Do the Brits really call the American Revolution the Second Civil War? And he said as a history major, he’s never even heard of that! So the guys on my plane were just a breed of their own apparently – making up names for American holidays. The British server did tell me that the Revolution is a black hole in British history and they don’t talk about it too much in school. Who knows if he was being serious with me or not, but I could totally see that. Your richest colony (who is has a baby army) beats you in a war. Not something to brag about to your kids!
Regardless of what the British call it, Happy 4th of July all the way from across the pond in the Motherland! – From a bunch of History Teachers!