NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ765210
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2005-Nov
Pages: 30
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0018-2745
Divided by a Common Language: The Babel Proclamation and Its Influence in Iowa History
Frese, Stephen J.
History Teacher, v39 n1 p59-88 Nov 2005
The anti-German sentiment during World War I reached a point where "people speaking German on the street were attacked and rebuked." Iowa Governor William L. Harding legitimized such expressions of prejudice and war-time fanaticism when he issued "The Babel Proclamation" on May 23, 1918. Antagonism toward Germans and their language escalated nationwide, but Harding became the only governor in the United States to outlaw the public use of "all" foreign languages. Harding understood the connection between communication and assimilation. He was convinced that destroying the vital bond of language within ethnic communities would force assimilation of minorities into the dominant culture and heighten a sense of patriotism in a time of war. Harding's understanding of immigrant assimilation offers insight into subsequent efforts to superficially create unity through language legislation. Historically, Governor Harding's Babel Proclamation, which was repealed on December 4, 1918, demonstrates the extreme measures citizens and governments are willing to employ to achieve "peace and tranquility" at the expense of liberty during a time of national crisis. It is important to understand that forcefully shattering the bond of language to artificially unite all Iowans makes Iowa--and the nation--less safe for the ideals of democracy. (Contains 45 notes and an annotated bibliography of primary and secondary sources.)
Society for History Education. California State University, Long Beach, 1250 Bellflower Blvd, Long Beach, CA 90840-1601. Tel: 562-985-2573; Fax: 562-985-5431; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Iowa; United States