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American Nations: A History of the Eleven…
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American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North… (2011)

by Colin Woodard

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
Woodard suggests that the United States has never been a single nation. Rather, it’s comprised of eleven regional cultures that aren’t confined to political boundaries. According to Woodard, the Yankee and Deep Southern cultures have always been opposed to each other, and the other cultures have aligned themselves with one or the other at various points in U.S. history. I didn’t find a lot of new insight here, perhaps because I’ve read many of the books he recommends for further reading. It’s not possible to address eleven cultures in depth in such a short book, so this is largely generalizations about the cultures. The author provides examples to support his thesis, but he doesn’t discuss points that might contradict his thesis. For example, he doesn’t address potential homogenizing effects of mass media and globalization. ( )
  cbl_tn | Jan 1, 2019 |
Crucial perspective on US politics. ( )
  Fiddleback_ | Dec 17, 2018 |
Sweeping generalizations throughout. Seems more of an opinion piece than factual. Very biased view. ( )
  haysx5 | Dec 12, 2018 |
By Colin Woodard – This 2011 book—a pick of my book club—is a thought-provoking analysis of the different cultural strains, mostly organized along geographic lines, that make up what author Sarah Vowell calls “the (somewhat) United States.” Woodard’s subtitle is “a history of the eleven rival regional cultures of North America.” Many of those rivalries, which date to our earliest history, well before the Revolutionary War, have been amplified, not erased, by subsequent events, and help to explain some of the political schisms we see today.
The answer to a frustrated electorate’s “Why can’t our politicians (and voters) ever agree on anything?” is partly that they never did. Of course, aggregate data hide a lot of individual differences, and none of the characterizations Woodward has developed for his eleven regions describe every individual living there, just the region’s general cultural tendencies. Some of his regions cross over into Canada and Mexico too.
The regions, which he says “have been hiding in plain sight throughout our history,” are:
• Yankeedom began as a “religious utopia in the New England wilderness.” Those early colonies emphasized education, local political control, and efforts aimed at the greater good of the community.
• New Netherland laid down the cultural underpinnings of greater New York City; a trading society that was multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and committed to freedom of inquiry. Its precepts were memorialized in the Bill of Rights.
• The Midlands, founded by English Quakers and organized around the middle class people predominantly of German background and moderate political opinions who don’t welcome government intrusion.
• Tidewater catered to conservative aristocratic elites who were gentleman farmers, strong on respect for authority and dependent on slave labor. It was dominant during the colonial period, but lost its standing by dint of its culture’s inability to expand beyond coastal areas.
• Greater Appalachia was founded by “wave upon wave of rough, bellicose settlers from the war-ravaged borderlands of Northern Ireland, northern England, and the Scottish lowlands” who in their native lands formed a strong independent spirit, suspicious of aristocratic overlords and social reformers alike (think Mel Gibson in Braveheart).
• The Deep South, founded by Barbados slave lords, became the bastion of white supremacy and aristocratic privilege. It is the least democratic of the 11 regions while being “the wellspring of African American culture.”
• New France is an amalgam of the Canadian Province of Québec and some other areas of far eastern Canada as well as the Acadian (“Cajun”) territories of southern Louisiana.
• El Norte dates to the late 16th century, when the Spanish empire founded missions north into California. It includes Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Colorado and Texas, as well as northern Mexican states that, Woodard says, are more oriented toward the United States than Mexico City.
• The Left Coast is a narrow strip from Monterey, California, to Juneau, Alaska, and includes San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver. The cities were originally developed by Yankee traders who came by ship and the countryside by overland arrivals from the Appalachian region and the culture today is an amalgam of Yankee idealism and Appalachian independence.
• The Far West is the only area “where environmental factors truly trumped ethnic ones.” The region is unsuited for traditional farming, but its resources have been exploited by companies headquartered in distant cities and they and the federal government own vast tracts of land. Locals largely oppose federal interference (just in the news again lately), even as they depend on federal dollars.
• First Nation he defines as a large region in the far north, where the indigenous population has never given up its lands and still employs traditional cultural practices.
Like any analysis intended to look at history through a single lens, Woodard may tailor his arguments to support his approach. Nevertheless, he presents an intriguing hypothesis that carries the ring of truth. In this political season, many of the old antagonisms and patterns he describes are newly visible and, frankly, any cogent explanation of why Americans do some of the things we do is welcome! ( )
  Vicki_Weisfeld | Apr 14, 2016 |
Colm Toibin
  jmail | Mar 21, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
For all its interest, Mr. Woodard's narrative is studded with enough annoying errors to make one wary of its often original analysis. . . .Even more annoying are claims that could come from 1940s liberals (Texas is just a low-wage resource colony) or contemporary left-wing blogs (Christian conservatives seek the Baptist equivalent of Sharia law). Mr. Woodard tells us, as so many Jeremiahs have, that the United States is in decline and, abruptly, that it will break up because the Soviet Union did so. But this prediction goes against the thrust of his narrative, which shows how a diverse nation has, despite its differences, stuck together.
 

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Woodard, Colinprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dixon, WalterNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For my father,
James Strohn Woodard,
who taught me to read and write
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On a hot late-August day in 2010, television personality Glenn Beck held a rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the forty-seventh anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. (Introduction)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670022969, Hardcover)

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 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:27 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

According to award-winning journalist and historian Colin Woodard, North America is made up of eleven distinct nations, each with its own unique historical roots. In American Nations he takes readers on a journey through the history of our fractured continent, offering a revolutionary and revelatory take on American identity, and how the conflicts between them have shaped our past and continue to mold our future. From the Deep South to the Far West, to Yankeedom to El Norte, Woodard reveals how each region continues to uphold its distinguishing ideals and identities today, with results that can be seen in the composition of the U.S. Congress or on the county-by-county election maps of presidential elections.… (more)

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