Trailer » American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America PDF by Î Colin Woodard I can t recommend this book highly enough It explains why the different territories of the country have the different political bents that they do And I learned facts about American history that I had never previously heard The ending gets a little too biased and subjective, but up until then it s fascinating.
Journalist and amateur historian Colin Woodard makes a lot of interesting assertions on the back of thin evidence Splitting North America into eleven competing nations, or accurately, cultural archetypes, Woodard goes to great lengths to explain the history of the United States, not as a single hegemonic unit, but as many smaller, competing units within a federal framework Woodard himself explains his work as a synthesis, and looking through the footnotes of American Nations, one wonders at the paucity of original sources, or at the scarcity of secondary sources Woodard puts forth broad claims about the American history or regional characteristics on the strength of few sources, to wit McCullough s John Adams as the primary resource on the Adams presidency In all, Woodard s view of his pet regions remains terribly surface Though his argument is engagingly presented, Woodard s pessimist It was good, but particularly toward the end became the author s opinion rather than statistical evidence or other facts He is from Maine and allowed his predjudices to show According to him, all Southerners comprised of Tidewater, Deep South, and Appalachia are Republicans, conservative, racist, backward and so on with the usual stereotypes New Englanders are, of course, progressive, educated, and egalitarian, though he does admit to past intolerance I live here and let me tell you that is not quite the full story or even predominant characteristics of the people who live here His premise is that North America is made of of various nations, each with its own unique characteristics Left Coast, Yankeedom, Tidewater, Appalachia, Deep South etc While I agree with his assessment of the existence of the various nations, I don t agree with his boundaries He Has Appalachia extending fr Jon Stewart can t do it all alone The Daily Show has evolved toward open minded consideration of the issues of the day and less outright comedy because Stewart still thinks honest people of good faith can cut through the nonsense and figure out problems in a way any reasonable person can admit makes sense Colin Woodard s American Nations A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America 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.
AdvertisementMany readers will be skeptical at first, and I was, too No doubt Thomas Frank What s the Matter With Kansas How Conservatives Won the Heart of America and others have done valuable work in looking deeper than the familiar red state blu Recommended with reservations the first half of the book, covering the historical origins of the 11 diverse nations that comprise modern United States, is brilliant For instance, most people don t realize that the vibrant multicultural entity that is New York was just like that continuously all the way back to its founding as New Amsterdam, which was the most diverse and progressive city of its time Or that Deep South was founded by Barbados plantators, unlike the Tidewater area of Virginia and Maryland, founded by recently transpanted gentry from England, with consequent differences in culture and policy Etc, etc The second half of the book, however, is devoted to exposing the author s deeply partisan interpretation
I don t care how much American history you know, or think you know, this book, awkwardly sub titled A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures, is a revelation I ll give you an example of my own where is the oldest building made by Europeans in the U.
S If you grew up in the Northeast, you re probably thinking it s in Boston or Philadelphia Went to school in the Southeast, maybe it s in St Augustine or New Orleans So where you grew up has a lot to do with what you think you know Don t believe me Then why isn t The Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe, New Mexico, built ten years before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, the first place that pops to mind Why isn t it as famous as Plymouth Rock Time and time again, th My problem with broad stroke history books is that they are far too broad, and that you cannot really make claims or assertions because there simply isn t enough evidence provided to back them up Ultimately this is the greatest weakness of Woodard s book It s a very interesting premise, and one that I largely find to be true and intuitive if you travel and live in different places in this country I grew up in Nebraska, and found my time in North Carolina to be an interesting study, mostly in what self reliance meant to different people, because it s everything to the individual in my Germanic Midwestern upbringing, but had a communal definition in the south It s just that there wasn t enough evidence provided behind each separate American nation mentioned in the book to make a very strong argument I certainly Our country finally makes sense The facts haven t changed, and even the history we were taught in high school and college retains its basic outlines But why we are the way we are, with all the frustrations we suffer because of our politics, our religions, our battling baffling cultural wars now I begin to understand.
Of course we all knew that the parts of North America were settled by people with different wildly different, as it turns out origins But because American history as it s usually taught so heavily emphasizes what began with the Mayflower, all the other beginners are dismissed as outliers What Colin Woodard does is begin with all the founding groups, taking them at their face value Each group he names them Yankeedom, Midlands, Deep South, El Norte, Greater Appalachia, New France, The Far West, The Lef
S is made up of rival nations with borders vastly different from the regions depicted on common maps of the country And I enjoyed the parts that seek to illustrate the founding and spreading of U.
S colonies and what later became U.
S territory When Woodard tries to characterize the people of the land, however, he brushes with broad, unflattering strokes that I found hard to take seriously His discussion concerns missionaries, slave lords, congressmen, etc yet he casually refers to Midlanders or Yankees as though he has provided any insight whatsoever to the women, minority residents, or political moderates of that region Woodard s personal prejudices are made most evident by the facts and events he chooses to discuss, and the ones he ignores He laments the railway land grants 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 TerritoryIn 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