Saturday, April 28, 2007

English-speaking Peoples Since 1900


As I suspected the last 20 years appeared to be much more journalism than history so I'll only throw out a couple of facts that intrigued me:

p. 572 According to a European Commission report in 2001, English was being spoken by more than one in three of 350M citizens of the EU, whereas fewer than one in ten spoke French outside France itself.

p. 573 there are three non-native English speakers for every native one.....with 1.5B speakers worldwide, it is poised for global hegemony.

Wow. Now I wish I'd taken Spanish in school instead of French.

p.574 Despite Britain having just 1.3% of the world's population - and taking up less than 0.2% of the world's land area - English is today both the language of wealth and, just as importantly, of aspiration to wealth. It is not enough that many hundreds of millions should speak English as their first or second language, but the people who do so have on average higher per capita incomes than those who speak the other great world languages. Although there are many more Mandarin-speakers than English-speakers, they are only worth [Scooter: I lament the choice of words] £448B in total. Against that Russian-speakers are 'worth' [Scooter: fine, here he inserts the quotes] £801B, German-speakers £1,090B, Japanese-speakers £1,277B, but English-speakers are worth a staggering £4,271B - more than all the rest put together.

Mon Dieu!

In his conclusion, Roberts does his duty and cites many of the shames of the 20th C. English-speaking Peoples, which did not go unmentioned earlier in his History but I've not yet mentioned, e.g., the one hundred years from the end of American slavery until real progress for the American African-American and the disparate levels of wealth in the US but cited some facts that I've heard before from Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell about the American poor:

p. 639 Over 46% of America's poor - as defined by the US Government's Census Bureau - own their own homes [Scooter: I have a hard time with that one...must be a pretty generous definition of poor], 72% have washing machines, 60% own microwave ovens, 92% have colour TV sets, 76% have air-conditioning and 66% own one or more cars. 2/3s of poor households have an average of two rooms per person, and the average poor American has more living space than the average individual in Paris, London, Vienna or Athens [Scooter: Having stayed in many a pensione in Europe, I don't find this hard to swallow]. Obesity, rather than hunger or malnutrition, is the danger for the children of America's poor....

Finally, do the Brits use the phrase "in the event" the same way as we use "in any event?" I must have come across that a dozen time in the book and every time I had to reread the sentence. That was the conclusion to which I came.

Wonderful book that has left me wondering if I can tackle its inspiration.


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