… a core term used in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100


The Cambridge Dictionary defines nativism as the political idea that people who were born in a country are more important than people who have come to live in the country from somewhere else.

Merriam-Webster defines nativism as a policy of favouring native inhabitants as opposed to immigrants.

The Economist (reference below) has written about the role of nativism in the American politics:

“A century ago many Americans fretted about a minority in their midst, which reputedly owed its first loyalty to an obscurantist faith, and which, in league with foreign conspirators, was poised to destabilise the country. In particular they suspected – as some Republican presidential candidates imply today – that houses of worship had become dens of sedition and vice. So it was that several states passed “convent-inspection” laws, to help uncover stashes of arms supposedly hidden in nunneries by Catholic traitors (as well as maidens immured against their will).

“… Anti-papist feeling swelled again in the hardscrabble 1890s, this time directed in part at Italians and Slavs. Wayne Flynt, a historian at Auburn University, cites the lurid case of Sidney Catts, a Baptist minister from Alabama who became an insurance salesman in Florida and in 1917 – on the back of his fearmongering – the state’s governor. Catts claimed Catholics were storing arms in a Tampa cathedral; there were whispers of a papal invasion, followed by the construction of a new Vatican in Palm Beach. Convents were scrutinised; anti-Catholic fraternities abounded. One such was consecrated precisely 100 years ago, on November 23rd 1915, when a giant cross was burned on a mountain outside Atlanta and, after a hiatus since Reconstruction, the Ku Klux Klan was reborn.

“… America is by no means the only Western democracy prone to spasms of nativism. Nor is it the only country liable to forget – and so repeat – its misjudgments of earlier newcomers: look at Britain’s Jews and Ugandan Asians, both resented when they landed but now extolled as model minorities. Established immigrant communities can be uncharitable to later groups elsewhere, too. But there is a special disjuncture between America’s xenophobia and its lofty ideals, and sometimes (as in the past few weeks) a distinct ferocity in the way it is expressed, amplified as it is by the country’s competitive politics and First-Amendment outspokenness.

“At bottom, the phenomenon has peculiarly American causes, sufficiently entrenched to be immune to the tightening of immigration rules since the 1920s or the varying moral claims of importunate foreigners: 61% of Americans, for example, opposed taking in Jewish children in 1939, slightly more than oppose admitting Syrian refugees now. One is the hope and conviction that the whole point of America is to protects its citizens, fortress-like, from perils and miscreants across the seas. Another is the slow, disconcerting evolution of a mostly white, Christian country to a more secular, patchwork nation.

“Historians also speculate that some Americans’ intermittent hostility to outsiders is fundamentally religious in another way: a transmutation of a hunch that the devil walks among them, and that the faithful must be ever vigilant for his guises.”

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Electoral Systems and Democratic Reform (core topic) in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100 Governance and Institutions.


Cambridge Dictionary, nativism, at, accessed 21 August 2016.

Merriam-Webster, nativism, at, accessed 21 August 2016.

The Economist, This land is our land – Trump in history, 28 November 2015, at, accessed 21 August 2016.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 21 August 2016.