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

de Colin Woodard

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1,0023115,324 (4.14)1 / 81
The author describes eleven rival regional "nations" in the United States (Yankeedom, New Netherland, the Midlands, Tidewater, Greater Appalachia, the Deep South, New France, El Norte, the Left Coast, the Far West, and First Nation), and how these deep roots continue to influence our politics today.
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Colin Woodard is a demographer historian. This book traces the inception and evolution of eleven distinct North American nations over the past five hundred years.

The book's foundational premise: that the United States has never been and will never be a unified nation.

There are many fascinating tidbits in the book:

- Did you know that the Civil War had four sides (not two)?
- Or that, if immigration to the US stopped in 1790, that we would still have half of our current population levels?
- Or that Quakers were the radical pacifist settlers of Philadelphia, but that their pacifism limited their conquest?

Although this is a book that talks primarily about the European inhabitants of North America (as they represent a majority of the population today), it does talk at length about indigenous interaction and influence. For example, did you know that New France had a strategy of alliance and commerce with the Native Americans as opposed to genocide?

Sometimes it feels like politics is civil war. This books helps explain why.

Much of the narrative of the book revolves around the competing values that have informed our democracy. To take two examples: Yankeedom was founded on the German value of freedom—that every human has basic rights. Tidewater was founded on the value of liberty—that rights are awarded to the elite few, and it is the obligation of the impoverished masses to serve those with liberty.

Reading this book leaves me excited to read more of Woodard's work. Apparently he has another book called "The Lobster Coast" looking at the same trends in more detail in New England, which sounds fascinating. ( )
  willszal | Jun 12, 2021 |
Do you marvel and despair at this fractured country? Author Colin Woodard claims that It's not really conservative vs liberal. Instead, it is basically Yankeedom (with its desire for the collective good) vs the Deep South (with its defense of slavery). He covers the development of each "nation": the additional nine being New Netherland (NY, NJ), Tidewater (MD,VA), Midlands (PA and the Midwest) , Greater Appalachia (WV, the Carolinas, GA, Tenn, KY, Missouri) , El Norte (Texas, Southern CA, AZ, NM, Colorado). New France (LA), First Nation (Alaska and western Canada), Far West (MN, Idaho, the Dakotas, Utah, NV) and Left Coast (CA, OR, WA). The alliances within the nations - French immigrants and First Nation/Native Americans and the subsequent exile to New France; the Deep South with the miserable slave masters of Barbados; and the desire of the Tidewater elite to emulate the cavaliers and monarchists of England; and the ongoing resentment of Greater Appalachians for their English oppressors in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales causing their desire to live "beyond the effective reach of government". The book remarkably accurately predicts the current day divisions and alliances and how the earliest settlers brought their conflicts with them and their chickens home to roost.

Quote: “They “freed” an oppressed people – the region’s enslaved Blacks – but failed to provide the security or economic environment in which they might thrive.” ( )
  froxgirl | Apr 12, 2021 |
A Fresh Perspective on American History
4.5 Stars
After reading “American Nations” on the recommendation of a friend, I was surprised to see the conformity of excellent ratings and reviews on Amazon, as many an Oxen are gored in this history. I was advised before reading it that Mr. Woodard had biased view and made little or no effort to walk a middle path. This is quite true. I’m sure the author has never tuned in to a single broadcast of Fox News. However, However, the seasoned reader can appreciate an honest work from someone on the opposite side of the street, if that writer is objective as he can be. It sometimes up to us readers to interpret in the light of a writer’s mind-set.
Woodard’s bias notwithstanding, this is a very instructional and illuminating history of North America. Early in the book, I was more than a bit skeptical when he put for his main thesis, that the first settlers to a region established its mores and culture and later immigrants assimilated themselves to those values. After Reading the book I am not completely convinced, but I’m considering it. In fact, Mr. Woodard gives us much to think about in “American Nations.” It is the kind of book that one thinks about often long after setting it down.
The book goes off the rails a bit in the epilogue and consequently loses a half star.
( )
  Chipa | Apr 2, 2021 |
A fine tuning and expansion of [Albion's Seed] about the 11 cultural nations created upon their inception and holding firm through time, expansion of influence, and immigrant influxes. A very fascinating and revealing way to understand the hegemony of the Americas. ( )
  snash | Mar 28, 2021 |
An intriguing but flawed book. Woodard's thesis — that America is best understood not as a single culture, or a handful, or a multiplicity, but a discrete 11, whose different values have shaped the country's history — draws on good scholarship and is compelling. The execution is highly uneven, however. Much of the book seems too polemical, as Woodard's contemporary liberalism colors his takes on the virtues and vices of the various cultures. Moreover, the book is most interesting in the distant American past, until the Civil War. As he nears closer to modern times Woodard annoyingly abandons his thesis altogether, condensing the 11 rival cultures into two warring alliances (reflecting, generally speaking, the Democratic and Republican parties) and those caught in between. There's about half of a great book here, and half a shoddy mess. I'd like to see another author take up the idea in a more diligent manner. ( )
  dhmontgomery | Dec 13, 2020 |
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For my father,
James Strohn Woodard,
who taught me to read and write
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The author describes eleven rival regional "nations" in the United States (Yankeedom, New Netherland, the Midlands, Tidewater, Greater Appalachia, the Deep South, New France, El Norte, the Left Coast, the Far West, and First Nation), and how these deep roots continue to influence our politics today.

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