Shaping Our Nation: How Surges of Migration Transformed America and Its Politics

Shaping Our Nation: How Surges of Migration Transformed America and Its Politics

by Michael Barone

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It is often said that America has become culturally diverse only in the past quarter century. But from the country’s beginning, cultural variety and conflict have been a centrifugal force in American politics and a crucial reason for our rise to power.
The peopling of the United States is one of the most important stories of the last


It is often said that America has become culturally diverse only in the past quarter century. But from the country’s beginning, cultural variety and conflict have been a centrifugal force in American politics and a crucial reason for our rise to power.
The peopling of the United States is one of the most important stories of the last five hundred years, and in Shaping our Nation, bestselling author and demographics expert Michael Barone illuminates a new angle on America’s rise, using a vast array of political and social data to show America is the product of a series large, unexpected mass movements—both internal and external—which typically lasted only one or two generations but in that time reshaped the nation,  and created lasting tensions that were difficult to resolve.

Barone highlights the surprising trends and connections between the America of today and its migrant past, such as how the areas of major Scots-Irish settlement in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War are the same areas where John McCain performed better in the 2008 election than George W. Bush did in 2004, and how in the years following the Civil War, migration across the Mason-Dixon line all but ceased until the annealing effect that the shared struggle of World War II produced. Barone also takes us all the way up to present day, showing what the surge of Hispanic migration between 1970 and 2010 means for the elections and political decisions to be made in the coming decades.
Barone shows how, from the Scots-Irish influxes of the 18th century, to the Ellis Island migrations of the early 20th and the Hispanic and Asian ones of the last four decades, people have moved to America in part in order to make a better living—but more importantly, to create new communities in which they could thrive and live as they wanted. And the founders’ formula of limited government, civic equality, and tolerance of religious and cultural diversity has provided a ready and useful template for not only to coping with these new cultural influences, but for prospering as a nation with cultural variety.
Sweeping, thought-provoking, and ultimately hopeful, Shaping Our Nation is an unprecedented addition to our understanding of America’s cultural past, with deep implications for the immigration, economic, and social policies of the future.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Barone (Our First Revolution) reviews migration to the U.S. and its impact on American politics. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Scotch-Irish and English pioneers fanned across the continent in a “Yankeediaspora” and bestowed on it British laws, language, and religions. Barone catalogues the impact of European immigrants, from Italians to Slavs, Germans and Irish. In contrast to the rest of the nation after the Civil War, black and white Southerners remained relatively immobile and the region was populated mostly by native-born Americans. While Barone transcends clichéd Ellis Island narratives, his early chapters rehash textbook political history to a degree. The more impressive chapters deal with the post-1940 period, as Barone outlines black migration to the North and out-migration from Northern cities to the Sunbelt. The flow of Americans of all backgrounds to California, Florida, Texas, and other high-growth states added up to a national political game changer. Barone puts the best face possible on 50 years of substantial, mostly illegal Mexican immigration to the U.S. and explains why it happened. He reveals official cluelessness—or dishonesty—during the passage of the landmark immigration acts of 1964 and 1965. Barone’s sharp political instincts and ability to clearly explain demographic change make for a solid and lively account. 19 b&w maps. Agent: Glen Hartley, Writers’ Representatives. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"Lively, entertaining, and informative." -Alvin Felzenberg, The Weekly Standard

“Reading Michael Barone on politics and demography is like sampling a tasting menu prepared by a fine chef. His latest offering, Shaping Our Nation, does not disappoint…The book is a delightful read, full of color and stories of people and just enough data to inform and satisfy...It is a treat for the reader, and will trick you into knowing more about modern politics than you might otherwise have wanted to discover.” -Washington Times

“An honest, objective exploration of how immigrants changed the identity of the United States.” -Washington Independent Review of Books

“There is bipartisan Washington agreement about exactly one thing: No one else knows as much about anything as Michael Barone knows about American politics. This is confirmed by his sparkling study of the migrations that have made, and continue to make, our nation what it is.” –George F. Will, columnist, The Washington Post

Michael Barone, who created the indispensable Almanac of American Politics and has been updating it since 1972, knows the United States and its political contours from our largest cities to our smallest hamlets in all 3,033 of the nation’s counties. In The Great Surge, he applies that panoramic knowledge to the peopling of the nation, describing not just where our forebears originated, but how the many waves of migration within America have shaped our culture, politics, and destiny. The Great Surge added a new dimension to my understanding of American history.   –Charles Murray, bestselling author of Coming Apart and The Bell Curve

"Nobody knows the political map of the United States better than Michael Barone.  In this fascinating, fast-paced history he explains who we Americans are, where we came from, when, and why." –Walter A. McDougall, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, University of Pennsylvania
“Michael Barone dazzles in this eminently lucid and fair minded account of how a series of great migrations from colonial times to the present day shaped American cultural and political history. Linking today's Asian and Hispanic waves of immigrants to the Irish, Germans and others who came before, Barone reminds us that American identity has always been a work in progress. At a time when many doubt America's resilience and coherence, Barone offers solid ground for hope that America's future will be as rich, as complex and ultimately as fulfilling as anything we've seen in the past.” –Walter Russell Mead, professor, Bard College, editor-at-large, The American Interest
“As Michael Barone's The Great Surge demonstrates, America's history is largely one of migrations, a process that continues today. If you want to understand what divides Americans in terms of regions and ethnicity, Barone's book is essential. It also helps to remind us what has united us as a people through all these demographic storms, and can do so in the future.” –Joel Kotkin, author of The Next Hundred Million
“Michael Barone paints an illuminating demographic portrait that shows how historical migration surges and pauses, mostly unanticipated, profoundly shaped enduring regional interests in this country.  Anyone wanting to understand today’s divisive politics and how we got here needs to read this book.” –William H Frey, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution and Research Professor, Population Studies Center, University of Michigan

Kirkus Reviews
The Washington Examiner's senior political analyst examines the internal and immigrant migrations that have "peopled" America. Few commentators have studied the history of American politics as thoroughly as Barone (Our First Revolution: The Remarkable British Upheaval that Inspired America's Founding Fathers, 2007, etc.), and he continues his life project here with a look at our constantly churning population, mass movements that have had a continuing effect on our politics. Picking up about where David Hackett Fischer's estimable Albion's Seed (1989) left off, Barone looks first at the antebellum spread of the Scots-Irish from the Eastern Seaboard to the Southeast and Southwest. He turns then to four other epochal surges: the first half of the 19th-century migration of New Englanders across upstate New York and the Midwest and of planter-class Southerners from the coast to the Mississippi Valley; the 1840-1890s immigrations of Irish Catholics and German Protestants; the mass movement from rural to urban America from the end of the Civil War to World War II; and the 1970-2010 immigration of Latin Americans and Asians to major American cities. Within these larger transformations, Barone pursues a variety of intriguing subplots--Andrew Jackson as the perfect embodiment of the American Scots-Irish, the unique, "annealing effect" of WWII, the role of air conditioning in repopulating the South, and the recent exodus from high- to low-tax states--and he emphasizes two recurring themes: the unanticipated beginnings and the rather abrupt endings of these mass migrations and the widespread unease, even fear, each development engendered. How could the republic possibly absorb these changes? Barone ably demonstrates how practiced the United States has become, how sturdy our constitutional framework has proven, at accommodating the religious, economic and cultural diversities that accompany vast, unexpected additions to and shifts within our population. As Congress once again debates immigration reform, Barone delivers a timely history lesson.

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The Crown Publishing Group
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Random House
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Meet the Author

MICHAEL BARONE is a foremost expert on American politics and history, a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, and author of the New York Times bestseller Our First Revolution and Hard America, Soft America. A resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, he is also a Fox News Channel contributor and coauthor of The Almanac of American Politics. His column is published Wednesdays and Sundays. He blogs regularly for the Examiner's Beltway Confidential site.

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