British Buckeyes. The English, Scots, & Welsh in Ohio , 1700-1900. By Warren E Van Vugt. (Kent , Ohio : Kent State University Press, 2006. xiii, 295 pp. Cloth, $55.00, ISBN 0-87338-843-7.)
British Buckeyes. The English, Scots, & Welsh in Ohio, 1700-1900 by Warren E. Van Vugt of Calvin College is a survey of the influence British immigrants had on the development of Ohio over the course of two centuries. The arrival, settlement, and impact of British immigrants in the United States after 1775 is virtually ignored in academic literature, so this examination of them in one state is to be welcomed. The first premise of the work is that the history of Ohio cannot be told or understood without the British immigrants. The second premise, asserted in an often repeated phrase, is that British immigrants had a significant impact because of their cultural affinity with the Americans as well as a common language and religion. This fact is perhaps why British immigrants are so often overlooked: before 1775 they helped create American culture, but afterwards they simply blended in, not having as many obstacles to overcome or barriers to break through as other immigrant groups. Van Vugt, following heavily on the heels of Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fischer, believes that British immigrants coming to Ohio were simply reinforcing the folkways of earlier arrivals from Scotland, England, and Wales. Provocatively, in his conclusion he wonders when Ohio stopped being British and started being American. Although he admits many changes occurred between "early" and "late" British migrants, he does not seem to regard the differences as significant.
For British Buckeyes, Van Vugt identifies a selection of 602 British immigrants from biographies included in county histories for 60 of Ohio's 88 counties, most of which date from the 1880s and 1890s. The vast majority of the collected biographies are from English immigrants, reflecting perhaps the larger numbers of English who came to this country. While the book may seem "English-heavy," biographies and data on the other national groups are included. Throughout his work he relies heavily on these biographies and relating their contents to form a significant portion of the narrative. The county history research is supplemented by collections of letters, found in the United States and in England, ships' passenger lists and US and UK censuses. Unfortunately, Van Vugt does not say how he chose his sample of 602 immigrants, out of how many total biographies he found, or how he selected histories for those counties with more than one published. For example, there are four county histories for Columbiana County: Mack 1879, Cramner 1891, McCord 1905, and Barth 1926. While Mack is earlier, there are more biographies in Cramner. Frequently, entries for the native-born contain information for their pioneer ancestors, many of whom were also immigrants. Thus, using different county histories or different individuals could have produced different results. Neither does he comment that his selection of biographies is pulled from a decidedly non-random sample of Ohio residents. County histories were subscription volumes, so the biographies were generally not included in the volumes for free, which means only those individuals willing to pay for inclusion were memorialized. Consequently, only more successful (and wealthy) individuals were likely to be included and have the result of making the British immigrants appear more successful than they were. Van Vugt cannot be blamed for using a sample, as accounting for every biography of a British immigrant in Ohio from all published county histories would be an overwhelming task, but some indication of how his sample was selected and defined is warranted.
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