American Nations

American Nations

A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America

eBook - 2011
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An illuminating history of North America's eleven rival cultural regions that explodes the red state-blue state myth.North America was settled by people with distinct religious, political, and ethnographic characteristics, creating regional cultures that have been at odds with one another ever since. Subsequent immigrants didn't confront or assimilate into an "American" or "Canadian" culture, but rather into one of the eleven distinct regional ones that spread over the continent each staking out mutually exclusive territory.In American Nations, Colin Woodard leads us on a journey through the history of our fractured continent, and the rivalries and alliances between its component nations, which conform to neither state nor international boundaries. He illustrates and explains why "American" values vary sharply from one region to another. Woodard (author of American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good) reveals how intranational differences have played a pivotal role at every point in the continent's history, from the American Revolution and the Civil War to the tumultuous sixties and the "blue county/red county" maps of recent presidential elections. American Nations is a revolutionary and revelatory take on America's myriad identities and how the conflicts between them have shaped our past and are molding our future.From the Hardcover edition.
Publisher: 2011
ISBN: 9781101544457
Characteristics: 1 online resource

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s
sandraperkins
Aug 05, 2018

This book was recommended to me by a friend, who told me that it would help explain the deep divisions in our country today.

Wow, he was right! In fact, this book makes it clear that there have been deep divisions in our country from Day One!

The premise is that North America (including the United States, Canada and Mexico) was actually settled as 11 distinct nations, each with its own strong values, many of which were in direct conflict with the value of the other nations. Incredibly, the values and culture of the original settlors of these nations/regions are still strong in those areas even today, even 300-400 years later. After reading this book, I am less surprised about the deep divisions today than I am amazed that these disparate nations ever came together to form a single country! They could barely agree what day it was!

And while most of the nations had at least some admirable values, they all had some appalling ones too. Even leaders we thought were good people committed atrocities. No one was as saintly as we were taught in grade school and high school.

This book also made me realize how incredibly oversimplified and sanitized American History is when taught in schools. For example, there was no overwhelming support of democracy in the early days of our country; most leaders thought democracy was a terrible idea, and tried hard to limit its impact on the new nation. Our founding fathers really did not like each other and disagreed on many if not most things. The word “freedom” meant different things to different regions. It is amazing that they ever came up with a Constitution that everyone could live with.

Having grown up in Yankeedom, I certainly could relate to the descriptions of the Puritan values. The Puritans thought they knew better than anyone else, and they wanted to tell everyone else how to live their lives. Needless to say, that was not popular among other regions!

The Borderlanders (Scots and Irish) of Greater Appalachia basically wanted to live their lives and not have to be told what to do. They resented everyone who tried to control them. They were looked down on by wealthier Americans, who thought they were lazy and violent. The Borderlanders near the Deep South had a tough decision to make between the wealthy plantation owners and the British in the American revolution; some ended up on either side. But in the Civil War, when Fort Sumter was attacked, they signed up for the Union Army in droves. (Colin makes the argument that attacking Fort Sumter was the worst error the Confederacy made; they might have seceded peacefully if they had not done that.)

But the most fascinating nation to me was New Netherland, now New York City! NYC was settled by the Dutch, and retains important Dutch values to this day (even though the Dutch population there is tiny now). The most important value was trade. NYC tended to do what was best for trade in making any decisions about who to support and what action to take. They favored corporations and business from the get go. Another important value was tolerance of diversity. NYC has been incredibly diverse, racially, ethnically, religiously, etc. from Day One. And it still is today! The various groups may not have always liked each other, but differences were tolerated.

Colin reviews American history through the perspectives of the 11 nations, and it is fascinating and sometimes astounding. We see how and why the culture wars succeeded the other conflicts among the 11 nations, and how various of the 11 nations are allied even today.

This book was published in 2011, but it is not difficult to see the seeds of our current troubles. I highly recommend this book!

SPPL_Anna Mar 24, 2018

Interesting read, but it has its issues. I get that it follows a throughline of conflict between the primary American nations, but to give some such short shrift, particularly the First Nations, leaves it feeling heavy and fairly biased. Maybe that's just how people have to read it, confirming their own biases as I did, but I think much of that also comes from how much extra historical significance and baggage must be glossed over to fit into a reasonable length work.

a
AndyBreeding
Feb 06, 2016

A very interesting and illuminating book. As a member of 'Yankeedom' it helps me better understand my place in the great arguments of American history, many of which are still raging today.

b
behere
Dec 15, 2015

Is a great resource for people doing family history/genealogy. Unusual view of history and politics, immigration and migration. May answer questions about how you developed your values and beliefs and political leanings.

KEVIN DOWD Sep 28, 2012

amazing book. facinationg. tracks our divided country from the founding fathers.

shows how we have a legacy from the different groups that landed and established.. well.. the establishment.

no matter how many people came later, these groups defined the politics and economics of their areas.

s
SusanWilbanks
Aug 17, 2012

An intriguing look at how the founding settlers of the American regions impact their cultures to this day.

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d007069550
Jan 12, 2012

How about teaching the American Revolution through this perspective?

jayblock Oct 30, 2011

American Nations is essential reading to understanding the dynamics of American culture. Colin Woodard defines the original drives which where behind the establishment of the American colonies. Utopian societies, Retro-Feudalism and violent individualism are all key tenets within the foundation of the US. This fierce blend of conflicting ideologies is still present in today's political,cultural and religious landscapes. Far from homogenous, America has always been a fractured and fractious stew.

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