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 territory.
In 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 (author of American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good) 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.
Historian and journalist Woodward's new take on American history identifies the original cultural settlements that became the United States, and proceeds with the thesis that these regional and cultural divisions are responsible for clashes stretching back to Revolutionary times. The 11 nations don't follow state or even country territory lines, but rather the paths taken by the earliest settlers of these areas; while later immigrants added to the mix, they didn't change the fundamental culture. Woodward (The Republic of Pirates) uses this hypothesis to explain the Civil War, regional differences in education philosophies and voting patterns, even the disparate mentalities of northern and southern Californians. Concern for the future closes the book, citing "classic symptoms of an empire in decline": U.S. economic difficulties, "extreme political dysfunction," a politically divided population, and ongoing wars. Despite that pessimistic note, the book's compelling explanations and apt descriptions will fascinate anyone with an interest in politics, regional culture, or history.
I great big brushstrokes picture of American Geo-Ethnic History. Basically, the premise of the book is that various regions of the USA have their own cultural legacy (see Malcolm Gladwell "Outliers"), which determine their politics and social order more so any any particular ethnic group. Essentially, the USA is more of a confederation of competing political and social orders in different regions, and not a monolithic country.
The author reasonably explains a variety of historical conflicts through this lens. The explanations are satisfying, and continue to the present day. His explanation of the political coalitions which have dominated at different times is very plausible. IT bears relevance to the current times, and explain why the Republican PArty, despite being essentially a Deep Southern party, which virtually no Latin American or African-American members, has a dominance all out of proportion to their numbers, and indeed even the popularity of their agenda.
Woodard is a highly underrated historian and ought to be required reading.
This book was not good for me personally, but I can see the draw to others. I find history interesting, but not much in this book speaks to my specific interests. The text is super dense and just seems like the reader gets pelted with facts. I found it arduous to read and found myself wishing that the book would end. I ended up reading less than 1/3 of the book even though I had a test on it.