American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America

American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America

by Colin Woodard


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• A New Republic Best Book of the Year • The Globalist Top Books of the Year • Winner of the Maine Literary Award for Non-fiction •

Particularly relevant in understanding who voted for who in this presidential election year, this is an endlessly fascinating look at American regionalism and the eleven “nations” that continue to shape North America

According to award-winning journalist and historian Colin Woodard, North America is made up of eleven distinct nations, each with its own unique historical roots. In American Nations he takes readers on a journey through the history of our fractured continent, offering a revolutionary and revelatory take on American identity, and how the conflicts between them have shaped our past and continue to mold our future. From the Deep South to the Far West, to Yankeedom to El Norte, Woodard (author of American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good) reveals how each region continues to uphold its distinguishing ideals and identities today, with results that can be seen in the composition of the U.S. Congress or on the county-by-county election maps of this year's Trump versus Clinton presidential election.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143122029
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/25/2012
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 18,794
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Colin Woodard is a Maine native and the author of Ocean’s End: Travels Through Endangered Seas. He is a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Part 1 Origins: 1590 to 1769 1

Chapter 1 Founding El Norte 23

Chapter 2 Founding New France 34

Chapter 3 Founding Tidewater 44

Chapter 4 Founding Yankeedom 57

Chapter 5 Founding New Netherland 65

Chapter 6 The Colonies' First Revolt 73

Chapter 7 Founding the Deep South 82

Chapter 8 Founding the Midlands 92

Chapter 9 Founding Greater Appalachia 101

Part 2 Unlikely Allies: 1770 to 1815

Chapter 10 A Common Struggle 115

Chapter 11 Six Wars of Liberation 127

Chapter 12 Independence or Revolution? 141

Chapter 13 Nations in the North 150

Chapter 14 First Secessionists 157

Part 3 Wars for the West: 1816 to 1877

Chapter 15 Yankeedom Spreads West 173

Chapter 16 The Midlands Spread West 183

Chapter 17 Appalacia Spreads West 189

Chapter 18 The Deep South Spreads West 200

Chapter 19 Conquering El Norte 208

Chapter 20 Founding the Left Coast 216

Chapter 21 War for the West 224

Part 4 Culture Wars: 1878 to 2010

Chapter 22 Founding the Far West 243

Chapter 23 Immigration and Identity 254

Chapter 24 Gods and Missions 263

Chapter 25 Culture Clash 274

Chapter 26 War, Empire, and the Military 285

Chapter 27 The Struggle for Power I: The Blue Nations 295

Chapter 28 The Struggle for Power II: The Red and the Purple 302

Epilogue 314

Acknowledgements and Suggested Reading 323

Notes 327

Index 355

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American Nations 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
Skipper7009 More than 1 year ago
Colin Woodard presents what could be very dense cultural history in a succinct and informative fashion. The information is presented chronologically, for the most part, jumping between what he identifies as the cultural nations of North America within certain time periods. Organization is generally top-notch in this book. For that matter, I learned a plethora of little known facts about American history of which I was previously unaware. Woodard makes a strong case for his thesis, but with mixed results. The smooth wording masks a slimmer bibliography than more scholarly texts on this subject, and this work is in some ways a more reader-friendly sequel to David Hackett Fischer's 'Albion's Seed' (this is acknowledged by Woodard). Similarly, the thesis breaks down a bit with regard to the late nineteenth century alliance of Appalachia and the Deep South, as well as the shift from religious to secular cultural dominance in Yankeedom. These holes are significant enough to make the reader question the central thesis of American nations remaining relatively static from their foundation to the present. A future edition of the book may address these issues. In short, this is a must-read for those new to American History, cultural history, or as a pleasant way to learn about North America's past. Colin Woodard is not an academic historian, however, so those looking for a more authoritative treatment of this material may want to look elsewhere.
mel3704 More than 1 year ago
I haven't finished reading it, but it is the first non-fiction book that I cannot put down. It is very interesting, easy to read, and has really helped me to better understand the different cultures all over our country. Only negative about the Nook version- maps are hard to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is 1) brilliant, and 2) a key to understanding the cultural differences in the United States that have expressed themselves in national politics. Seeing the source of each of the 11 nations and the philosophy of life the various populations brought with them into their area of the country is highly revealing. It explains why "swing states" exist: because they comprise two opposing cultural viewpoints within the same state jurisdiction, and the one more in favor is the one that carries that state at the time of any given election. One of the most salient points it revealed to me is why Yankeedom and the Deep South will never agree on race, states' rights v. federal oversight or on submitting to each other in these and other areas. The deep cultural roots of borderline cultures that have always been at war with nations on the other side of the border are pervasive still, even though those cultures now exist side by side in America and are not physically or politically challenged by any other national entities. Some of the nations' cultures think an enlightened federal government should lead the nation; others think that they should be left alone and not have anyone tell them what to do. The 2012 presidential and Congressional elections are completely understandable in the light of Woodard's definitions of the 11 cultures and the continuing outrage of the right after Obama's re-election. Four years they could handle as a fluke, but eight years is a sea change, and they will not have it. This book is remarkably revealing of things that you may have had an intuitive sense about but never knew the exact reasons for. This book tells you the reasons. It is highly enlightening and a projection of whether the U.S. can stay together as a republic or will break up into regional political units.
StephenJon More than 1 year ago
The author has an interesting thesis. But, he has undercut it by making the mistake of analyzing past events using todays cultural attitudes. He further diminishes his anlysis by passing moral judgement based on his own cultural biases. This could have been an important work but is instead mediocre due to a lack of discipline by the author.
lorisfay More than 1 year ago
"American Nations" puts American history in perspective in order of occurance and reasoning of the people of the time. It shows the politics of the day has carried over into the present. Everyone should read this book. It clears up common misconceptions many people have about American history and shows you people and politics have not changed that much. The book was easy to read and interesting. I want to read it again more slowly. It reads almost like a novel and makes you want to find out the ending! I want to pay more attention to the details next read.
JFavor More than 1 year ago
An excellent analysis of the American psyche and culture. The book blends the cultural times and historical events that have formed and continue to form the varying American ideals found in different parts of the United States. The book is an easy read and it tells the story of who we are are as Americans.
gramercy More than 1 year ago
WhidbeyIslander More than 1 year ago
The ideas put forth in this book I found fascinating. Woodard makes a compelling connection between our history as a nation and our current political angst.
WeeWilly More than 1 year ago
I’m only a fourth of the way along but it is wonderful so far. The author highlights revealing, human facts about the founders of our culture. His assessment of the politics, history and demographics is concise and informative. I find that I’m eager to resume my reading sessions. Bill Lyon
brett_in_nyc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It is a great read to see the history of this country that certainly explains some of what we see going on here today in this difficult moment. I do question the history writing norms though that report on cultural details and symptoms of difference as if they alone are explanations for the way history plays out. It is clear the youth movements of the Midlands, Yankeedom, and Left Coast had to be stopped. The progress they established laid the ground work for perhaps the most energetic, creative, and economically accomplished generation ever on earth. They created a lot of middle class wealth and middle class political power wherein lies the real reason behind the story here. Like the Moors and Jews of Spain in another golden age, or the Amsterdam middle class who came after them, with other enlightenment moments like Prague in Bohemia, they had to be stopped by a Reactionary Royalist Putsch! Elizabeth I of England is well documented for her plots to dampen the scary wealth and political power of her woollen makers by importing waves of French Huguenot linen-makers as competition from a civil war she actually funded. Using the ends against the center is perhaps one of the most masterful Machiavellian strategies. Pitting strategies are de rigeur in Oligarchy and Empire. That they go so undetected by history writers in 21st Century USA is just mah-veh-lous for the descendents of the Oligarchs!The mysteries embedded in this book can be fun reading for hapless Americans with a lot of family history they never really knew. In the wrong hands it can be the playbook for divide-and-rule and the dismantling of the Republic, never a moment too late! The market for natural resources still buried under public and private lands here is just now hotting up for the century to come!These details can also explain the very explicit efforts to engineer culture war in this country since the 1970s. Ralph Reed admits his goals of divide-and-rule using conservative Christianity in the Appalachia/Midlander/Deep South/Far West nations. He details the techniques he used for his bosses to get Roman Catholic blue collar workers throughout the Midlander region to vote with the Plutocrats as if they suddenly shared some profound common interests.These efforts are explicit. They are no accident. They are real tools of war. Scholars write about these things including how NATO uses them on enemy populations to topple enemy Plutocrats. Mr. Woodard doesn't mention any of this at all, but instead seems to suggest a foregone conclusion that culture war would naturally arise here simply because the people were different. If there weren't economic shortages of work and inadequate resources for decent life and retirement caused by legalized hoarding in the first instance, there would be no reason for culture war to erupt between these nations. The Robert Morris tricks with money are great. But, the remaining tricks over the last century with money to trigger all this stuff like what is going on here today remain hardly mentioned, and certainly not as root causes of simmering tensions.Mr. Woodard clearly shows that the Aristocratic Authoritarian South has spread its influence over the rest of the country. Plutos everywhere beyond the South must recognize the usefulness of these methods, once they too got hands on astronomical fortunes to protect from the "mob". It is clear some Michigan, Ohio, Omaha, Southwestern PA, CT, TX, etc., along with Wall Street (New Netherland) Plutocrats of course, now all recognize the usefulness of these Deep South strategies. The Courts went along with it too approving such game changing legislation as FEC 1974, and rulings like Buckley vs Valeo and now Citizens United.This knowledge in the wrong hands can also perhaps explain the combination of international and local home grown (made here) capital backing media enterprises operating in the central regions like News Corporation, Clearchannel, or Community First Newspapers Holdings, Inc.
tututhefirst on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Colin Woodard has given us a thought-provoking, deeply researched, easy to read look at the various ethno-cultural groups making up the North American continent from Canada to Mexico, from the Native Americans who were subjugated by the Spanish (or annihilated by the Anglos) to the Inuits of Canada who are enjoying a resurgence of their identity and culture.He posits these 11 "nations" to be Yankeedom, New Netherlands, The Midlands, Tidewater, the Deep South, Greater Appalachia, New France, The First Nation, the Far West, El Norte, and the Left Coast.  For each, he introduces us to the earliest members, traces their original settlement and the subsequent expansions to other areas of the continent, their expectations, educational levels, governing style, religious and cultural influences from the "Old Country", and analyzes their influence on key historical events of the North American development  from elected officials, wars, and legislative achievements to looking at the current political gridlock occuring in the US.His insights are exceptionally provacative and give the average reader pause to re-examine what we have been taught.  For example ....
In the end, The U.S. Constitution was the product of a messy compromise among the rival nations.  From the gentry of Tidewater and the Deep South, we received a strong president to be selected by an "electoral college" rather than elected by ordinary people.  From New Netherland we received the Bill of Rights, a set of very Dutch guarantees that individuals would have freedom of conscience, speech, religion, and assembly.  To the Midlands we owe the fact that we do not have a strong unitary state under a British-style national Parliament; they insisted on state sovereignty as insurance against Southern despots and Yankee meddling.  The Yankees ensured that small states would have an equal say in the Senate, with even the very populous state of Massachusetts frustrating Tidewater and the Deep South's desire for proportional representation in that chamber; Yankees also forced a compromise whereby slave lords would be able to count only three-fifths of their slave population when tabulating how many congressmen they would receive. pg.  148 It's a profound book that is not a quick read; neither is it a plodding read.  He often offers us "What ifs?" that introduce stunning possibilities e.g., if South Carolina hadn't fired on Ft Sumter, the Union might have been able to negotiate a settlement, and eventually the many nations would have re-aligned themselves into several --up to four--separate confederations, or ended forming a collaboration somewhat akin to today's European Union.   To supplement several well-drawn and clearly notated maps, Woodard's style is enjoyable, clear and concise.  He gives us an especially thoughtful look at the role the Canadians and northern Mexicans have played (and continue to play) in the culture and politics of the US.  He poses questions, synthesizes the best of scholarship available at the moment to give us intelligent and interesting answers.  Never did I feel I was reading a text book, although I'd certainly hope that all US history and political science majors will be required to read this.  It is simply one of the most interesting and fascinating  books I have read this year.  It will certainly be on my Top Ten Non-Fiction list for 2011.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Verifies my observations, having lived in both East Texas and West Virginia, that there are cultural ties that bind.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Colin Woodard does an amazing job of organizing the history of America through views of racial immigration, religious segregation, economic entrepreneurship; everyone in the States has a story and that story has a history and that history has a history. These collection of amoebas is continuingly changing, integrating, morphing and Woodard emphasizes that we all are affected till this day and even tommorow. You won't regret it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a fascinating study on cultural differences between different regions of North America, and how they don't necessarily agree with State lines. Dialect aficionados will enjoy this a great deal. However, where the center cannot hold in this work is when Woodard tries to set up an argument for good versus evil based on stereotypes from the Civil War era. The idea which he wants us to fight is actually a great deal more pervasive in this country than he believes it to be. As a student of diaspora he should be aware of this. The idea is that a few decide to grow rich on the coerced cheap labor of the many, and there is not a state in the union that hasn't indulged in it at some point in history, though the Deep South's example is the most obvious and arguably the most egregious example. The idea is embedded in corporate culture in this country even now, and it is everywhere in the culture. Woodard seems to believe that defeating one regional subculture in this country will defeat the idea. I think he has come to a dangerously naive conclusion there. You have to confront this idea directly to defeat it. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This would be an excellent blueprint. Reading Woodard's detailed and well-researched book will permanently alter the way you view American history and the politics of any time period, right up to the present. For example, have you ever wondered why, in presidential elections, Ohio is a swing state, but neighboring Indiana and Michigan are reliably Republican and Democratic? After understanding the backgrounds and underlying biases of each nation, it will make sense with a quick glance at Woodard's map. The same goes for explaining California's internal divisions, and why "Yankeedom" and the "Deep South" have never seen eye-to-eye, and likely never will. A highly recommended read!
CMAJORME More than 1 year ago
An overview of the national regions that doesn't hide the warts,reveals some basic Prejudices and clarifies a lot of current blue/red biases. Written in strong declarative style. Highly recommended especially for political buffs. CWM
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am only about halfway through the book. I really like it but I need to read it when I have very few distractions. An old friend from my college days recommended it. I have learned so much that I didn't know. I feel like I should take notes so I can remember the specifics of each nation within the nation. This is one book that I wish I had a "real" book instead of an ereader version. I want to write in it. But I will be proud to lend this book to my Nook contacts.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book offers an explanation of the differences in culture in the several regions of the country, and, depressingly, shows why our political gridlock is likely to continue.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very interesting read; presents American history in a different light. A little repetitive and biased against the Deep South, but worth checking out.