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Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (1989)

by David Hackett Fischer

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,729318,023 (4.48)105
This fascinating book is the first volume in a projected cultural history of the United States, from the earliest English settlements to our own time. It is a history of American folkways as they have changed through time, and it argues a thesis about the importance for the United States of having been British in its cultural origins. While most people in the United States today have no British ancestors, they have assimilated regional cultures which were created by British colonists, even while preserving ethnic identities at the same time. In this sense, nearly all Americans are "Albion's Seed," no matter what their ethnicity may be. The concluding section of this remarkable book explores the ways that regional cultures have continued to dominate national politics from 1789 to 1988, and still help to shape attitudes toward education, government, gender, and violence, on which differences between American regions are greater than between European nations.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
The question I had before reading this book was Why are different regions of the U.S. so different in temperament, culture, and politics? This book doesn't purport to fully answer that question (Colin Woodard's American Nations is on my to-read list), focusing instead on how successive British migrations to the America brought different British cultures and folkways to the colonies. I wasn't prepared for the exhaustiveness of the treatment (this is a thick book!), but I appreciate how the author covers the various nuances that make up the term "folkway" and sustains it for each of his four groups. After reading this book, I think I have a much better understanding of how culture(s) was transmitted wholesale across the Atlantic and how that impacted regional development of America (from town development in New England, to plantation-based hierarchy in Virginia, to the relative anarchy and clannishness of the back country). Though these traditions have mixed and been incorporated with later migrations, it is remarkable how resilient some of these cultural attitudes and underpinnings remain. Highly recommended for those who want to understand the social origins of this country and the pluralism that marked it from the beginning. ( )
1 vote stevepilsner | Jan 3, 2022 |
This book was very enlightening. Fischer traces four discrete waves of migration from the British Isles to the American colonies, each not only settling in a distinct area, but also originating in different areas. As a result, there was not one "British" colonial culture, but a variety of regional differences, largely reflecting the origins back home. These cultures manifested themselves in attitudes toward politics, family, sex, children, as well as styles of domestic architecture and religious affiliation. Even what we consider distinctive accents, such as New England twang or southern drawl, can largely be traced to regional dialects in the homeland. In addition to informing about colonial America, this book explains the origins of enduring conflicts in the US today. Highly recommended. ( )
  HenrySt123 | Jul 19, 2021 |
Absolutely fascinating. The book traces customs and cultures from medieval Britain to modern America - showing how many things we take for granted rely on a contingent past. He makes a very strong argument that these British subcultures play a central role in everything from the way Americans of all ethnicities vote, eat, marry, worship and speak. ( )
  poirotketchup | Mar 18, 2021 |
Albion's Seed posits the existence of at least 11 distinct regional cultures in America and focuses on the first and largest 4, these were the founding cultures. They are New England, Virginia and the coastal south, the Mid Atlantic (PA, NJ, part of MD), and the "backcountry" which is basically Appalachia from PA southward. These regions were settled from different parts of England, respectively: East Anglia, southern and central England (Wessex and Mercia). the English midlands, and the border regions of England-Scotland-northern Ireland. Fischer contends the 17th and early 18th century established the cultural patterns in these regions that still exist today. He provides extensive evidence which is very convincing. I learned as much about English culture as American. Although published in 1989 it is just as relevant today, it's a classic. It will change how I view the US and UK forever, a perspective mind shift. It goes a long way to explaining our current problems and is a reminder that the US has always had internal conflict between cultures. Fischer says each culture has different ideas of what it means to be American, what freedom means. These competing cultures have been its strength over time even when they sometimes appear to be at each other's throats. ( )
3 vote Stbalbach | Oct 25, 2020 |
From Novelist: The first volume in a cultural history of America examines the different lives and customs of the first groups of immigrants to America and assesses the importance of those traditions for contemporary American life.
  mackfuma | Oct 17, 2020 |
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David Hackett Fischerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Werner, HoniCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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On a blustery March morning in the year 1630, a great ship was riding restlessly at anchor in the Solent, near the Isle of Wight.
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This fascinating book is the first volume in a projected cultural history of the United States, from the earliest English settlements to our own time. It is a history of American folkways as they have changed through time, and it argues a thesis about the importance for the United States of having been British in its cultural origins. While most people in the United States today have no British ancestors, they have assimilated regional cultures which were created by British colonists, even while preserving ethnic identities at the same time. In this sense, nearly all Americans are "Albion's Seed," no matter what their ethnicity may be. The concluding section of this remarkable book explores the ways that regional cultures have continued to dominate national politics from 1789 to 1988, and still help to shape attitudes toward education, government, gender, and violence, on which differences between American regions are greater than between European nations.

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INTRODUCTION
The Determinants of a Voluntary Society, 3

EAST ANGLIA TO MASSACHUSETTS:
The Exodus of the English Puritans, 1629-41, 13

THE SOUTH OF ENGLAND TO VIRGINIA:
Distressed Cavaliers and Indentured Servants, 1642-75, 207

NORTH MIDLANDS TO THE DELAWARE:
The Friends' Migration, 1675-1725, 419

BORDERLANDS TO THE BACKCOUNTRY:
The Flight from North Britain, 1717-1775, 605

CONCLUSION
Four British Folkways in American History:
The Origin and Persistence of Regional Cultures
in the United States, 783

Acknowledgments, 899

Abbreviations, 903

Sources for Maps, 907

Index, 911
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