Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America / Edition 1

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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.

This explores a process that defined the regional cultures of the United States and created the pluralism on which American freedom is based.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Professor Fischer's careful research and analysis opens a much needed discussion of cultural character and origins in North America. The variety and complexity of historical sources will inform the work of other cultural historians and analysts."—Nadesan Permaul, UC Berkeley

"This is history at a lively pace, peppered with curious details about the origins of families....The author makes a convincing case."—Dolores and Roger Flaherty, Chicago Sun-Times

"A pleasure to read, for it is written with Fischer's characteristic perspicuity. Moreover, the numerous drawings by Jennifer Brody and maps by Andrew Mudryk are a visual treat."—Raymond A. Mohl, Review Essay

"The kind of book one can open to almost any page and immediately become engrossed....readers will enjoy and benefit from this book....We eagerly await volume two."—Neil R. Stout, Vermont History

"Holds up to readers a mirror in which they can discover in themselves and in their own world the persistence of their heritage....An engrossing work that will whet the appetite for more."—The National Genealogical Society Quarterly

"Ingenious and provocative....Raises matters of cardinal interest."—IThe Times Literary Supplement

"A splendid work of historical scholarship. . . . based on an original conception of cultural history which I find extremely usable. Eminently readable."—Omer Hadziselimovic, Earlham College [SEE REVIEW CARD FOR ACCENTS ON LAST NAME]

"[A] sprightly analysis....This is history at a lively pace, peppered with curious details about the origins of familiar words and practices....The author makes a convincing case for his claim that 'in a cultural sense most Americans are Albion's seed."—Chicago Sun-Times

"One of the most interesting, important, and ambitious books about American cultural and social origins ever written....A richly rewarding book, and one of great significance....It blends the best of new and old scholarship in lucid language designed to attract laymen and students alike. Very simply, Albion's Seed is a splendid achievement."—Michael Kammen, New York Newsday

"David Hackett Fischer's book could not be much bigger or more ambitious. It is the first in a series of volumes that he hopes will eventually constitute a cultural history of the United States....This book starts his series with a bang—a big bang....Remarkable....A revisionist blockbuster."—Gordon Wood, The New Republic

"Beautifully produced, this work should popularize the discoveries of a generation of scholars in the new social history. Anyone interested in these four cultures of the Anglo-American colonists will find here population data, family life, community mores, and achetypical individuals, portrayed in a clear and often lively text, thoughtfully analyzed illustrations, and wonderful maps."—Stephen Saunders Webb, Washington Post Book World

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195069051
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 3/14/1991
  • Series: America: a cultural history Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 972
  • Sales rank: 117,670
  • Product dimensions: 9.19 (w) x 6.13 (h) x 1.97 (d)

Meet the Author

David Hackett Fischer

David Hackett Fischer is Warren Professor of History at Brandeis University. He is the author of numerous books, including Paul Revere's Ride and Growing Old in America.


A professor at Brandeis University, David Hackett Fischer is the author of several noted books on history, including Bound Away: Virginia and the Westward Movement, The Great Wave: Price Movements in Modern History, Paul Revere's Ride, and Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America. He is co-editor, with James M. McPherson, of the Pivotal Moments in American History series published by Oxford University Press. A graduate of Princeton and Johns Hopkins Universities, he divides his time between homes in Massachusetts and Maine.

Author biography courtesy of Oxford University Press.

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    1. Hometown:
      Wayland, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 2, 1935
    2. Place of Birth:
      Baltimore, Maryland
    1. Education:
      A.B., Princeton University, 1958; Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University, 1962

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2001

    Understanding each other

    This is a superb book for anyone who has lived (or will live) in different parts of our country, because it explains a great deal about the regional differences in American culture. For example, to southerners, New Englanders often appear cold. They're not - they just have a very different cultural 'pattern'. Mr. Fischer explains where these patterns arose in Britain, and how they changed in America. Well and entertainingly written, with copious statistical footnotes in support of his assertions. I couldn't put it down.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 17, 2014

    A fascinating read

    This book was definitely worth the read. It offers such a thorough analysis of the subcultures from Great Britain that made up many of the regional subcultures in the United States. Much of why different regions turned out the way they did comes into stark focus. Among some of the more interesting facts was the differences in facial features and appearances amongst different factions of Britons and their descendants in the United States. Also, that the Puritans in New England were finding spots along the rivers that matched their own towns and cities back in England and building the new ones along the same basic layouts. I would highly recommend this book for anyone with an interest in American History or Culture, as so many regional quirks cease to be oddities and make stark sense given the realities of the peoples of the peoples who settled those regions.

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  • Posted April 11, 2012

    I'm a little confused as to why B&N shows the author as &quo

    I'm a little confused as to why B&N shows the author as "Anthony Kenny" when it clearly shows on the cover as being David Hackett Fischer.

    Other than that, I read this book years ago, and found it fascinating. My family ranges from recent Italian immigrants (my great-grandfather) to English and Welsh ancestors from the earliest settlements, and includes German immigrants in the mid-1800's. As someone who has moved about the eastern US and lived overseas as well, I have been interested in the various cultures of the different east coast regions; like many Euro-Americans who came of age in the 1960's, I struggled with racism, tolerance, and the guilty knowledge that some of my ancestors did indeed own slaves.

    For me, this book helped put my family's culture into perspective. I often wondered where my father's tolerance and lack of prejudice came from (other than his own gentle nature), and his insistence that we judge others as individuals rather than as stereotypes. I found the philosophical roots I had grown up with while reading this book. For me, it helped put my personal journey into a much broader context. I look forward to re-reading it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2007

    17th Century Living

    If you are at all curious about 17th century everyday living, dying, religion, child rearing, marriage, cooking, dress and you name it, this is the book for you. As usual, Dr. Fischer has written an enjoyable book. I'm the second person in my household to read it and I highly recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2006

    important book to understanding the U.S.A.

    This is a good book to have on one's reference shelf mainly because of the maps. The map on page 833 shows the regional differences that still impact our presidential elections!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2001

    New England family researchers/historians ...this book is a MUST READ

    It's a great book especially if you have ancestors of Mass Bay tells the 'relationship between the present and the past'(Fischer)....and how the colonist gradually changed the way of thinking for themselves not let the king and Parliment decide for them and hence the American Revolutionary War within 141 years of the settlement of Mass Bay Colony [1630].

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    Posted November 15, 2009

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    Posted April 9, 2014

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    Posted May 26, 2009

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