Jingoism is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as "extreme patriotism in the form of aggressive foreign policy". In practice, it refers to the advocation of the use of threats or actual force against other countries in order to safeguard what they perceive as their country's national interests, and colloquially to excessive bias in judging one's own country as superior to others – an extreme type of nationalism.
The term originated in Britain, expressing a pugnacious attitude towards Russia in the 1870s. During the 19th century in the United States, journalists called this attitude spread-eagleism. "Jingoism" did not enter the U.S. vernacular until near the turn of the 20th century. This nationalistic belligerence was intensified by the sinking of the battleship USS Maine in Havana harbour that led to the Spanish-American War of 1898.
The chorus of a song by G. H. MacDermott (singer) and G. W. Hunt (songwriter) commonly sung in British pubs and music halls around the time of the Russo-Turkish War gave birth to the term. The lyrics had the chorus:
We don't want to fight but by Jingo if we do
We've got the ships, we've got the men, we've got the money too
We've fought the Bear before, and while we're Britons true
The Russians shall not have Constantinople.
The phrase "by Jingo" was a long-established minced oath, used to avoid saying "by Jesus". Referring to the song, the specific term "jingoism" was coined as a political label by the prominent British radical George Holyoake in a letter to the Daily News on 13 March 1878. The term eventually caught on in the United States of America.
Early uses of the term in the USA were connected to the foreign policy of Theodore Roosevelt, who was frequently accused of jingoism. In an 8 October 1895 New York Times interview, he responded, "There is much talk about 'jingoism'. If by 'jingoism' they mean a policy in pursuance of which Americans will with resolution and common sense insist upon our rights being respected by foreign powers, then we are 'jingoes'."
The policy of appeasement towards Hitler led to satirical references to the loss of jingoistic attitudes in Britain. In the 28 March 1938 issue of Punch appeared a E. H. Shepard cartoon entitled The Old-Fashioned Customer. Set in a record shop, John Bull asks the record seller (Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain): "I wonder if you've got a song I remember about not wanting to fight, but if we do . . . something, something, something . . . we've got the money too?". On the wall is a portrait of the Victorian Prime Minister Lord Salisbury.
The term crops up in popular culture, notably in discussion of the aggressive attitudes illustrated in some Hollywood films. In a review for the latest film in the Rambo series, author David Morrell described the character of Rambo in Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rambo III as being "jingoistic". Jingo is also the title of a novel by Terry Pratchett, depicting a pointless war between two great states over a tiny island.
- American exceptionalism
- European exceptionalism
- Jingo, a novel by Terry Pratchett
- Catherine Soanes (ed.), Compact Oxford English Dictionary for University and College Students (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 546.
- http://www.davidkidd.net/20Plevna.html By Jingo
- Martin Ceadel, Semi-detached Idealists: The British Peace Movement and International Relations, 1854-1945 (Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 105.
- This cartoon is reprinted in John Charmley, Chamberlain and the Lost Peace (Ivan R. Dee, 1989), p. 61.