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American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America Paperback – September 25, 2012
"Roots" by Alex Haley
Now in paperback, check out Roots which electrified the nation when it first published forty years ago. Learn more
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—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
—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.”
“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)
“[W]ell-researched analysis with appeal to both casual and scholarly readers.”
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Top Customer Reviews
Some reviewers have stated that there is not much new here compared to Joel Garreau's 1980s book postulating 9 nations. I disagree - to me the historical thread tracing the origins of these differences are what makes it so compelling. Woodward's romp through that history is worth the price of the book. And there are startlingly different accounts of many of the historical events that are not covered in high school text books, that's for sure.
As a Canadian, it is interesting to see a treatment of history that, for Canadians, does not stop at the US border; and for Americans, does not stop a the Canadian (or Mexican) border.
I do agree with reviewers that Woodward's comments at the end of the book add too much personal opinion that diminishes the historical objectivity he shows elsewhere.
In summary, this is a compelling explanation of the enormous regional differences that make up the cultural and political landscape of America - and explains a lot about those same differences in Canada too. I strongly recommend this book to both those interested in North American History and those interested in its cultural and political trends.
Reading "American Nations" I felt the pieces falling into place. I am undecided on the question of just how valid the thesis of eleven rival nations is as political science, but it makes for a fine explication of our history. And as cultural anthropology it provides the same level of explanatory power for understanding our cultural differences that the theory of evolution provided for understanding biology, or that the theory of plate tectonics did for understanding planetary-scale geologic processes.Read more ›
It's basically a follow-up to David Hackett Fisher's Albion's Seed. That book, which came out in 1989, posited 4 basic cultures that settled the US, and which continued to have a huge influence up to this day.
To those cultures (Puritan New England, Quaker Pennsylvania, Cavalier Tidewater, and Scots-Irish Appalachia), Woodard has added a few more (New Netherlands and the Deep South, for example), and extended coverage of them up to the current day. He does an excellent job showing how different the nations were at the time of the Revolution, and why uniting the country was as difficult as it was. He also shows how the different cultures extended across the landscape (for example, a Yankee influence in the Western Reserve of Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota as well as a similar influence on the "Left Coast"). He does a good job showing how immigration fits in as well (basically, the original cultures were so strong that immigrants went where they fit in). Finally, he shows how the current impasse between red and blue states can all be tied back to a basic cultural division between Yankeedom and the Deep South. It really does help explain "what's the matter with Kansas?"
Though I did not identify it as such at the time, my migration from Ohio to be educated in a Maryland highschool and later to take up a Fellowship to earn my doctorate in California in the mid-1970s involved substantial amounts of what we describe today as culture shock. Caught in the midst of what Woodard in retrospect calls "culture wars" I was mostly just humored by the bumper stickers worn on cars from the Pacific Northwest that read, "Don't Californicate Oregon," and "Water in Oregon is pasteurized: it flows through pasture after pasture,"--the aim was to deter the surge of unbridled urban expansion and development into pristine, "wide-open spaces."
Perhaps the key distinction here is that, according to the author, nations are what have culture; states try to create them. He reminds us that the dynamic of artificial boundaries, "bringing states into existence" are a result of colonization or political gerrymandering, and not necessarily coherent or coterminous with the cultures of the people enclosed by them.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A truly enlightening description of how ALL of America was actually settled, by whom, and what actually determined core "American" values (that live to this day) in different and... Read morePublished 8 days ago by Lynne
I listened to the Audible version of this book and was initially enthralled with the author's account of the early history of the North American continent. Read morePublished 8 days ago by B. Geraghty
This is a fascinating look at how the United States got to be divided in so many ways as it is today. Read morePublished 10 days ago by jg
This book has some merit, but is ridiculously biased. The Maine based author uses the book to explain how his region of the country is better than all the other regions. Read morePublished 10 days ago by G. Spence
Particularly during this presidential election year (2016) a clear history of the origins of our varied population makes a good read. Read morePublished 14 days ago by Bradley
Not a bad book by any means. I think the biggest disappointment for myself was the fact that this book spends an enormous time on the Northeastern and Southeastern nations and... Read morePublished 16 days ago by Chase
As one of my book club's reads last year I first checked it out from the library and decided it would be fun to see how the author's comments regarding the nations compares with... Read morePublished 22 days ago by Sandy L