Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
The term Americanization generally refers to the assimilation of immigrants into U.S. society, a meaning now endowed with negative connotations. The unpopular interpretation rests on its association with the Americanization movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This movement, particularly during and after World War I, advocated immediate and coercive assimilation through English language and citizenship programs to the dominant Anglo-Saxon culture, then considered by nativists to be superior. Thus, the Americanization movements became synonymous with forced assimilation, nationalism, and xenophobia. Historically, several factors led to the escalation of nativist fears. First, specific circumstances in Europe, like the Irish famine and the change in British government policies, sent immigrants to the United States in exponentially increasing numbers. Between 1841 and 1860, over 1.7 million persons arrived. Second, the discovery of gold in California in 1848 initiated yet another new immigration stream, that of the Chinese. By the early ...