American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America

American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America

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by Colin Woodard
     
 

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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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Historian and journalist Woodward's new take on American history identifies the original cultural settlements that became the United States, and proceeds with the thesis that these regional and cultural divisions are responsible for clashes stretching back to Revolutionary times. The 11 nations don't follow state or even country territory lines, but rather the paths taken by the earliest settlers of these areas; while later immigrants added to the mix, they didn't change the fundamental culture. Woodward (The Republic of Pirates) uses this hypothesis to explain the Civil War, regional differences in education philosophies and voting patterns, even the disparate mentalities of northern and southern Californians. Concern for the future closes the book, citing "classic symptoms of an empire in decline": U.S. economic difficulties, "extreme political dysfunction," a politically divided population, and ongoing wars. Despite that pessimistic note, the book's compelling explanations and apt descriptions will fascinate anyone with an interest in politics, regional culture, or history.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Wall Street Journal
The New Republic Editors’ Pick

The Globalist Top Books of 2011
2012 Maine Literary Award for Non-fiction

“Mr. Woodard’s approach is breezier than Mr. Fischer’s and more historical than Mr. Garreau’s, but [Woodard] has earned a place on the shelf between them."

The Washington Post
“[C]ompelling and informative.”
News and Observer
“Provocative reading.”
The Boston Globe
“Fascinating….Engrossing….In the end, though, [American Nations] is a smart read that feels particularly timely now, when so many would claim a mythically unified “Founding Fathers” as their political ancestors.”
Alec MacGillis
“[A] fascinating new ethnographic history of North America.”
The New Republic
“[American Nations] sets itself apart by delving deep into history to trace our current divides to enthno-cultural differences that emerged during the country’s earliest settlement.”

“In a compelling mash-up of the contemporary political geography of authors like Joel Garreau and Dante Chinni with the ethnography and history of David Hackett Finscher (Albion’s Seed), [Colin] Woodard divides North America into eleven distinct “nations”.

John Bruton
“One of the most original books I read in the last year was American Nations….During my five years as an Ambassador in the United States, I spent a lot of time studying the voting patterns of different states and reading American history, and I have to say I find Woodard’s thesis to be fully borne out by my own observations.”
Christian Science Monitor
“In American Nations, [Colin Woodard] persuasively reshapes our understanding of how the American political entity came to be….[A] fascinating new take on history.”
The Portland Daily Dispatch
“Insightful.”
Military History Quarterly
“[Colin] Woodard persuasively argues that since the founding of the United States, 11 distinct geographical “nations” have formed within the Union, each with its own identity and set of values.”
Montana Kaimin
"[Colin] Woodard’s account of American history is a refreshing take, and one I’d recommend to those curious of what causes our cultural differences.”
Bill Bushnell
“[C]ontroversial and thought-provoking….This is an important sociological study.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“[F]or people interested in American history and sociology, American Nations demands reading….American Nations is important reading.”

The Daily Beast
“Colin Woodard debunks the simplistic notion of Left Coast, red state, blues state and other broad-brush efforts to peg America’s differences….American Nations pulls off the unlikely feat of both offering the tools for just such a broader, deeper understanding—and demonstrates why, in a larger sense, that effort is doomed….The key to the [American Nations]’s effectiveness is Woodard’s skill—and irreverence—in delving into history with no qualms about being both brisk and contrarian….[I]n offering us a way to better understand the forces at play in the rumpus room of current American politics, Colin Woodard has scored a true triumph. I am going to order copies for my father and sister immediately—and I hope Woodard gets a wide hearing for his fascinating study.”
The Herald Gazette
“If you want to better understand U.S. politics, history, and culture American Nations is to be required reading….By revealing this continent of rivals, American Nations will revolutionize the way Americans think about their past, their country, and themselves and is sure to spark controversy.”
Library Journal
Journalist Woodard (The Republic of Pirates) takes a fresh approach to North America by reviewing the history and ethnography of its various regions. He includes Mexico and Canada in his study but focuses mainly on the United States. He splits the continent into Left Coast, Far West, El Norte, Greater Appalachia, Midlands, Deep South, Tidewater, New Netherland, Yankeedom, and New France, with the four most powerful northern "nations" forming a Northern Alliance and the four most powerful southern ones a Dixie Bloc. The cultural and political clashes between these two "superpowers," he convincingly argues, has shaped American history, with the other three "nations" serving as swing regions tipping the scale on issues ranging from slavery to foreign policy. The regional histories predictably focus on colonization, the American Revolution, western migration, the Civil War, and Reconstruction, but the surprisingly thorough and wide-ranging story brings readers through the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, offering an up-to-date study as viewed through this distinct ethnographic lens. VERDICT The argument that there is not one American identity but many is not new, but Woodard makes a worthwhile contribution by offering an accessible, well-researched analysis with appeal to both casual and scholarly readers.—Douglas King, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia
Kirkus Reviews

Forget about the United States and Canada. The true nations of North America, writes historian and Christian Science Monitor foreign correspondent Woodard (The Republic of Pirates, 2007, etc.), have little to do with those artificialities.

Borrowing fruitful notions from Joel Garreau'sNine Nations of North America(1981) and David Hackett Fischer'sAlbion's Seed: Four British Folkways in North America(1989), Woodard traces the differences in America's regions to cultural, ethnic, religious and political differences among various strains of settlers, many of them long in play back in the British Isles. What he calls The Midlands, for instance, extends from the central Atlantic Seaboard deep into the Great Plains, encircling "Yankeedom" by taking in the southern tier of east-central Canada. These regions are the historical purview of, respectively, the Quakers of the English Midlands and the Puritans of England's eastern coast, with their distinct views of human nature and how government had to be organized to respond to it. Some of his "eleven stateless nations of North America" descend from these two regions, representing the old divide between moderate conservatism, with its "middle-class ethos and considerable respect for intellectual achievement," and moderate liberalism, with its view that "society should be organized to benefit ordinary people." Other regions, though, are the product of an English elite that mistrusted any government that presumed to tell them what to do, even though they descended from feudalism. Behold, then, the South, both the aristocratic piedmont of Virginia and North Carolina and the hardscrabble, God-haunted, fearful Deep South. The author connects these regional differences to deep divisions in American life, noting that the old struggle between those moderate forces has been supplanted by the rise of that Deep South, perfected in the 2000 election, when it "established simultaneous control over the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives for the first time in forty-six years."

Woodard offers a fascinating way to parse American (writ large) politics and history in this excellent book.

The Christian Science Monitor
“In American Nations, [Colin Woodard] persuasively reshapes our understanding of how the American political entity came to be….[A] fascinating new take on history.”
From the Publisher
“Fascinating . . . Engrossing . . . a smart read that feels particularly timely now, when so many would claim a mythically unified ‘founding Fathers’ as their political ancestors.”
—The Boston Globe
 
“[I]n offering us a way to better understand the forces at play in the rumpus room of current American politics, Colin Woodard has scored a true triumph.”
—The Daily Beast
 
“[C]ompelling and informative.”
—The Washington Post
 
“Mr. Woodard’s approach is breezier than [David Hackett] Fischer’s and more historical than [Joel] Garreau’s, but he has earned a place on the shelf between them."
—The Wall Street Journal
 
“[American Nations] sets itself apart by delving deep into history to trace our current divides to ethno-cultural differences that emerged during the country’s earliest settlement.”
—The New Republic, Editors’ Picks: Best Books of 2011
 
“Provocative reading.”
—News and Observer
 
“In American Nations, [Colin Woodard] persuasively reshapes our understanding of how the American political entity came to be. . . . [A] fascinating new take on history.”
—The Christian Science Monitor
 
American Nations by journalist-historian Colin Woodard is a superb book. Woodard makes a compelling argument that the United Sates was founded by contradictory regional convictions that continue to influence current attitudes and policy on a national level. . . . American Nations smashes the idea of political borders. . . . There is much to grapple with in this well-written book.”
—The Portland Press Herald
 
“[F]or people interested in American history and sociology, American Nations demands reading. . . . American Nations is important reading.”
—St. Louis Dispatch
 
“[I]f you want to better understand U.S. politics, history, and culture American Nations is to be required reading. . . . By revealing this continent of rivals, American Nations will revolutionize the way Americans think about their past, their country, and themselves and is sure to spark controversy.”
—The Herald Gazette
 
“Woodard persuasively argues that since the founding of the United States, eleven distinct geographical ‘nations’ have formed within the Union, each with its own identity and set of values.”
—Military History Quarterly
 
“Colin Woodard offers up an illuminating history of North America that explodes the red state-blue state myth. . . . Woodard’s American Nations is a revolutionary and revelatory take on America’s myriad identities, and how the conflicts between them have shaped our country’s past and mold its future.”
—MaineBusiness.com
 
“One of the most original books I read in the last year. . . . During my five years as an Ambassador in the United States, I spent a lot of time studying the  voting patterns of  different states and reading American history, and I have to say I find Woodard’s thesis to be fully borne out by my own observations.”
—John Bruton, former Prime Minister of Ireland
 
“Woodard offers a fascinating way to parse American (writ large) politics and history in this excellent book.”
—Kirkus (starred review)
 
“Provocative.”
—Publishers Weekly
 
“[W]ell-researched analysis with appeal to both casual and scholarly readers.”
—Library Journal
The Portland Press Herald
American Nations by journalist-historian Colin Woodard is a superb book. Woodard makes a compelling argument that the United Sates was founded by contradictory regional convictions that continue to influence current attitudes and policy on a national level.…American Nations smashes the idea of political borders.…There is much to grapple with in this well-written book.”
MaineBusiness.com
“Colin Woodard offers up an illuminating history of North America that explodes the red state-blue state myth.…Woodard’s American Nations is a revolutionary and revelatory take on America’s myriad identities, and how the conflicts between them have shaped our country’s past and mold its future.”
St. Louis Dispatch
“[F]or people interested in American history and sociology, American Nations demands reading.…American Nations is important reading.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670022960
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
09/29/2011
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
9.30(w) x 6.30(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Colin Woodard is a writer, historian, and journalist who has reported from more than fifty foreign countries and six continents. He is a foreign correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor and The Chronicle of Higher Education, and his work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Economist, Smithsonian, The Miami Herald, the Los Angeles Times, and Newsweek.com. He is the author of The Republic of Pirates, The Lobster Coast and Ocean's End. He lives in Portland, Maine.

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American Nations 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Skipper7009 More than 1 year ago
Colin Woodard presents what could be very dense cultural history in a succinct and informative fashion. The information is presented chronologically, for the most part, jumping between what he identifies as the cultural nations of North America within certain time periods. Organization is generally top-notch in this book. For that matter, I learned a plethora of little known facts about American history of which I was previously unaware. Woodard makes a strong case for his thesis, but with mixed results. The smooth wording masks a slimmer bibliography than more scholarly texts on this subject, and this work is in some ways a more reader-friendly sequel to David Hackett Fischer's 'Albion's Seed' (this is acknowledged by Woodard). Similarly, the thesis breaks down a bit with regard to the late nineteenth century alliance of Appalachia and the Deep South, as well as the shift from religious to secular cultural dominance in Yankeedom. These holes are significant enough to make the reader question the central thesis of American nations remaining relatively static from their foundation to the present. A future edition of the book may address these issues. In short, this is a must-read for those new to American History, cultural history, or as a pleasant way to learn about North America's past. Colin Woodard is not an academic historian, however, so those looking for a more authoritative treatment of this material may want to look elsewhere.
mel3704 More than 1 year ago
I haven't finished reading it, but it is the first non-fiction book that I cannot put down. It is very interesting, easy to read, and has really helped me to better understand the different cultures all over our country. Only negative about the Nook version- maps are hard to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is 1) brilliant, and 2) a key to understanding the cultural differences in the United States that have expressed themselves in national politics. Seeing the source of each of the 11 nations and the philosophy of life the various populations brought with them into their area of the country is highly revealing. It explains why "swing states" exist: because they comprise two opposing cultural viewpoints within the same state jurisdiction, and the one more in favor is the one that carries that state at the time of any given election. One of the most salient points it revealed to me is why Yankeedom and the Deep South will never agree on race, states' rights v. federal oversight or on submitting to each other in these and other areas. The deep cultural roots of borderline cultures that have always been at war with nations on the other side of the border are pervasive still, even though those cultures now exist side by side in America and are not physically or politically challenged by any other national entities. Some of the nations' cultures think an enlightened federal government should lead the nation; others think that they should be left alone and not have anyone tell them what to do. The 2012 presidential and Congressional elections are completely understandable in the light of Woodard's definitions of the 11 cultures and the continuing outrage of the right after Obama's re-election. Four years they could handle as a fluke, but eight years is a sea change, and they will not have it. This book is remarkably revealing of things that you may have had an intuitive sense about but never knew the exact reasons for. This book tells you the reasons. It is highly enlightening and a projection of whether the U.S. can stay together as a republic or will break up into regional political units.
StephenJon More than 1 year ago
The author has an interesting thesis. But, he has undercut it by making the mistake of analyzing past events using todays cultural attitudes. He further diminishes his anlysis by passing moral judgement based on his own cultural biases. This could have been an important work but is instead mediocre due to a lack of discipline by the author.
lorisfay More than 1 year ago
"American Nations" puts American history in perspective in order of occurance and reasoning of the people of the time. It shows the politics of the day has carried over into the present. Everyone should read this book. It clears up common misconceptions many people have about American history and shows you people and politics have not changed that much. The book was easy to read and interesting. I want to read it again more slowly. It reads almost like a novel and makes you want to find out the ending! I want to pay more attention to the details next read.
JFavor More than 1 year ago
An excellent analysis of the American psyche and culture. The book blends the cultural times and historical events that have formed and continue to form the varying American ideals found in different parts of the United States. The book is an easy read and it tells the story of who we are are as Americans.
gramercy More than 1 year ago
FOLLOWS THE MIGRATION OF EARLY AMERICANS THROUGH PRESENT DAY--THEIR CONCEPTS OF GOVERNMENT,COMMUNITY,HOPES FOR FUTURE,LIVELIHOODS AND THE IMPACT OF THEIR CONCEPTS ON PRESENT DAY GOVERNMENT AND POLICY. WOODWARD'S WRITING STYLE IS AJOY.
WhidbeyIslander More than 1 year ago
The ideas put forth in this book I found fascinating. Woodard makes a compelling connection between our history as a nation and our current political angst.
WeeWilly More than 1 year ago
I’m only a fourth of the way along but it is wonderful so far. The author highlights revealing, human facts about the founders of our culture. His assessment of the politics, history and demographics is concise and informative. I find that I’m eager to resume my reading sessions. Bill Lyon
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a fascinating study on cultural differences between different regions of North America, and how they don't necessarily agree with State lines. Dialect aficionados will enjoy this a great deal. However, where the center cannot hold in this work is when Woodard tries to set up an argument for good versus evil based on stereotypes from the Civil War era. The idea which he wants us to fight is actually a great deal more pervasive in this country than he believes it to be. As a student of diaspora he should be aware of this. The idea is that a few decide to grow rich on the coerced cheap labor of the many, and there is not a state in the union that hasn't indulged in it at some point in history, though the Deep South's example is the most obvious and arguably the most egregious example. The idea is embedded in corporate culture in this country even now, and it is everywhere in the culture. Woodard seems to believe that defeating one regional subculture in this country will defeat the idea. I think he has come to a dangerously naive conclusion there. You have to confront this idea directly to defeat it. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This would be an excellent blueprint. Reading Woodard's detailed and well-researched book will permanently alter the way you view American history and the politics of any time period, right up to the present. For example, have you ever wondered why, in presidential elections, Ohio is a swing state, but neighboring Indiana and Michigan are reliably Republican and Democratic? After understanding the backgrounds and underlying biases of each nation, it will make sense with a quick glance at Woodard's map. The same goes for explaining California's internal divisions, and why "Yankeedom" and the "Deep South" have never seen eye-to-eye, and likely never will. A highly recommended read!
CMAJORME More than 1 year ago
An overview of the national regions that doesn't hide the warts,reveals some basic Prejudices and clarifies a lot of current blue/red biases. Written in strong declarative style. Highly recommended especially for political buffs. CWM
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am only about halfway through the book. I really like it but I need to read it when I have very few distractions. An old friend from my college days recommended it. I have learned so much that I didn't know. I feel like I should take notes so I can remember the specifics of each nation within the nation. This is one book that I wish I had a "real" book instead of an ereader version. I want to write in it. But I will be proud to lend this book to my Nook contacts.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book offers an explanation of the differences in culture in the several regions of the country, and, depressingly, shows why our political gridlock is likely to continue.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very interesting read; presents American history in a different light. A little repetitive and biased against the Deep South, but worth checking out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This should be required reading in all high school American history clasaes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Will definitely cause you to rethink history and the founding of the country. Far more than just the British tale.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At first, very informative and enlightening with regard to North America's ethnoregional history, but unfortunately the author continued to develop a rant against modern conservatism with ever increasing intensity. By the end of chapter 28, he is practically screaming his dislike for anyone with conservative views, while simultaneously promoting liberalism. Hardly objective. I would have enjoyed the book much more had the author been neutral when dealing with idiologies. Such a disappointment!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not back - but very simplistic. Better a paper or a lecture. Tries to force concepts into too many historic situations. But can be a decent reference.