Muscular Christianity, Eugenics, War, Football, and Imperialism

In the late nineteenth century, a fear about the softness of American society raised doubts about the capacity of the United States to carry out its imperial destiny.  This problem was associated with the final settlement of the frontier.  As important as the development of open space was to the expansion of the territory of the United States, the completion of the continental expansion brought an attendant fear that traditional masculinity was on the wane and would bring about a withering of the individual and the national body.  This fear spread to the church as well, where the result was thought to be a moral softening (Miller 2011, p. 38).  To make matters worse, waves of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe were flooding American cities with foreign cultures.  This concern became so pressing that talk of “race suicide” became common.

Here is the complete section:

2 comments so far

  1. Aldo Matteucci on


    I’m afraid this is “cookie cutter” cultural history.

    First the facts: At any one time the immigration flows into the US were far more complex than you describe here (see and the attitudes towards it were much more differentiated by place, economic conditions, tradition, than your summing up allows. You say “a fear about softness of American society…” where, when, by whom? What impact did this “de-personalized” fear have on politics, on the economy, and economic policies? What impact did religion have, when e.g. the catholic Irish started to move in, before the Civil War? Once one starts drilling into the swee^ping statement, it dissolves likes caries under the dentist’s drill.

    Then the underlying ideology. You are implicitly beholden to the idea that people are moved by “ideas” the way leaves are pushed by the wind. In your case, I presume, the Matrix being the leaf-blower. Alas, people are moved by experience, Experience is the great Enabler. For a more realistic approach, I’d suggest first reading the works by Th. BREEN on the evolution of American attitudes as they entered the transatlantic markets, and also as they moved from insurgents to revolutionaries.


  2. mark hansen on

    as i don’t want to start a blog, could you make the whole section available another way?

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