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Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South Paperback – May 30, 1989
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“Assuredly the most controversial book about the South to emerge in years, and the discussion of its argument is certain to be heated and extensive.”
“Cracker Culture will enjoy a permanent place in the literature of its field. . . . Assign [it] and stand back to watch the fur fly.”
—Journal of the Early Republic
“McWhiney defines and explains the ‘cracker’ culture that emanated from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and northern England to become the dominant culture among British settlers in the Old South. Characterized primarily by the values of herdsmen, this white ethnic culture valued leisure for leisure’s sake, emphasized an oral tradition over the written word, and placed stress upon ideas that were antagonistic to the life-style of English-dominated northerners. It was, therefore, only a matter of time and circumstance before the two basic cultural heritages—Celtic and English—would collide in a devastating war.”
About the Author
Grady McWhiney (1928–2006) was a noted historian of the American South and of the Civil War. He taught at a number of institutions, notably at The University of Alabama and Texas Christian University. Among his many booklength works are Attack and Die: Civil War Tactics and the Southern Heritage and Braxton Bragg and Confederate Defeat (vol. 1), both available from The University of Alabama Press.
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Top Customer Reviews
Why did Northern and Southern unity quickly become mutual suspicion and eventually dissolve into hostility? Was race the only reason? To Grady McWhiney, the question is largely a cultural one. McWhiney feels that Southern culture was and is Celtic. Most of the original settlers in the North came from England, while most of the South's early settlers came from the most Celtic regions of the British Isles(Ulster, Scotland, Cumberland, the West Country, etc). These settlers put a Celtic stamp on the South, influenced all who settled there, Celt or not, and brought with them their age-old hostility to the English, a hostility that was(and continues to be)reciprocated by the "English" of the North.
Celtic influence on Southern culture cannot be seriously disputed. Anyone who has ever heard bluegrass or country music can hear just one aspect of it. And that North and South are still mutually hostile is also unarguable. The uneducated bigot in the movies usually has a Southern accent and prominently displays a Confederate flag. But I think McWhiney oversimplifies. Celtic influence was there, but it was not alone. As Charles Hudson pointed out in The Southeastern Indians, Native American influence on Southern culture(which McWhiney ignores)was considerable, a fact well known to many of us with families from the southeastern US who have unsuccessfully tried to untangle our genealogies.
In short, Cracker Culture is worth your time. Just don't stop with it.
The Civil War was more essentially between the flatlanders and the North, than between us hillbillies and any other region. When mostly-flatland Virginia seceded from the North, 12 counties of hillbilly (and still largely Welsh and Scotch-Irish) folks seceded from Virginia back into the Union in (as state documents in Virginia still call it) the 'So-called state' of West Virginia. In Tennessee and North Carolina, the mountain areas tended to split in favor of staying in the Union or at least split more evenly between the two sentiments than the flatlands did.
Why's this? - slavery. And a centuries-old mutual distrust between flatlanders and hillbillies. (My old granny told me, as a child, never to trust a flatlander OR an Englishman, right in there while telling ancestor-stories of how some of our forebears came across the ocean because the English destroyed their homes.) And class distinction. (Hillbillies are overwhelmingly poor; though not all flatlanders are rich, the overwhelming majority of the money was in the valleys.)
Why didn't the author make this distinction, between the hill South and the valley South? - anybody's guess. But it's pretty poor pickings without even that minimal level of care in labeling.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Haven not open the package, but so far, so good. Arrived within the prescribed time.Published 6 months ago by none
Examining mostly the 17th and 18th Century colonial experience, this book uses anecdotal data to romanticize what the author sees as regional, cultural and especially innate... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Herbert L Calhoun
I found the information here well researched and presented in a way that was easy to understand. I did not like the way the extensive foot notes were situated throughout the... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Barbara Pratt
This book is outstanding. McWhiney does a wonderful job of explaining the contours of the tense relationships and culture norms among varies groups of immigrants from Europe. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Anthony B. Bradley
I haven't read the whole book, but it's very interesting thus far. The author makes many astute observations and paints a fascinating picture of the parallels between life in the... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Jamie Carter Bollich
I agree with the author of "Cracker Culture," that Yankees and Crackers have a different culture, but as to why, I would disagree. Read morePublished on February 1, 2014 by Anne Adams