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Warton, George Washington and the Lancashire Roots of the Anglo-American ‘Special Relationship’, c. 1880–1976

Edwards, S (2019) Warton, George Washington and the Lancashire Roots of the Anglo-American ‘Special Relationship’, c. 1880–1976. Northern History, 55 (2). pp. 206-234. ISSN 0078-172X

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Abstract

© 2019, © 2019 The University of Leeds. This article takes as its starting point the ancestral connection linking George Washington, first president of the United States, to the parish of Warton in north Lancashire. But rather than simply repeating the various details of this ancestry, this article considers instead the ways in which the Warton–Washington connection has been used within acts of ‘commemorative diplomacy’ — informal and often unofficial activities that deploy cultural memory in the interests of international relations. From the antiquarian endeavours of the 1880s, to the Washington-focused commemorations organized during the world wars, to the Bicentenary events of July 1976, places like Warton have long played a vital role in Anglo-American relations. Indeed, what Winston Churchill famously called the ‘special relationship’ has always been a carefully cultivated ‘myth’ as much as a political reality, and thus rooting it in specific places has been essential, ensuring it seems ‘organic’ rather than constructed, real rather than artificial, old and robust rather than new and superficial. Commemorative activities at Warton therefore offer an important perspective on twentieth-century Anglo-American relations, showing how a north Lancashire connection to the first president has provided an invaluable vector for defining, imagining and celebrating the transatlantic ties of the past and present.

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