An illuminating history of North America's 11 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 11 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 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.
©2011 Colin Woodward (P)2011 Gildan Media Corp
"Woodard offers a fascinating way to parse American (writ large) politics and history in this excellent book." (Kirkus)
"Woodard explains away partisanship in American Nations... which makes the provocative claim that our culture wars are inevitable. North America was settled by groups with distinct political and religious value - and we haven't had a moment's peace since." (Publishers Weekly)
This is a small work that packs a great deal of history. As one on the outside looking in, I never could understand why the U.S. government is so dysfunctional. Now I know. President Obama was right when he said, “We are not a red state and a blue state”, but wrong when he said, “we are the united states of America”. According to this author, the U.S. is made up of a number of “nations” so diametrically opposed to each other that they just can’t find a way to get along. Being of Scottish, Irish and French descent, I’ve always known that my Scots/Irish ancestors were a wild bunch, but, heavens to betsy, they sure have made a mess throughout history in the U.S. Between ethnic tensions, religion, racial discrimination and greed, it’s hard to see how U.S. citizens can untangle themselves from the knotted skein that is throttling them.
I listened to this book almost non-stop and was very sorry when it came to an end. The narrator could have read a little slower as there was so much I wanted to savor. I will listen to it again very soon.
Game developer and VFX industry vet.
This book is simply outstanding from cover to cover. As someone is a rabid consumer of US history I'm left feeling like a sports fan who just realized he has been watching a game playing out his entire life and only now is recognizing who is on what team. This book is incredibly well researched and provides a deeply contextualized history of the US's many regional states and cultural paradigms. I really cannot recommend this book highly enough for anyone interested in politics or American history.
The well researched and written histories of the states and their ethnic origins creates a much more interesting narrative than the generic right/left debate we all believe we live in.
A political primer that isnt 20th century revisionist nonsense
Buy this book
If you have ever wondered why Americans seem destined to argue past each other on all matters politics, this book provides a plausible explanation. Sorry, those that disagree with you are not idiots, but were likely raised in a different "national" culture. Woodard presents American history and current political loggerheads through the lens of the cultures of the different groups who colonized and now populate North America.
Very disappointing. First half is surprisingly objective and very informative. But, it's a trap. Having hopefully convinced the reader of his objectivity, the author then descends into an anti-Conservative rampage that continues to the end. Overall, a deceptive, dishonest attempt to soil all conservatives as racist, oppressive, anti-science, and uneducated. His rants no longer inform, but only reinforce the self-righteous Left of their dogma and PC agenda.
Only the first half.
This is not open-mindedness, it is indoctrination. The judgmental, self-righteousness of Puritanism has morphed and is now manifested and preached by Academics like Colin Woodard.
I wasn't completely sold on the assertions at the beginning, but he backs them up with enough evidence to be plausible. I think, though, that the research into the cultures of New France, First Nations, and El Norte is a little outside of this author's expertise.
The last couple chapters, though, turn into a diatribe against modern conservatism.
This is a fun but very silly book. The author divides North America into "nations" based on the cultural values of their original settlers and proceeds to explain everything that has happened up to present-day paralysis in Washington on the basis of citizens' continuing enslavement to the values of their ancestors. Further he warns that continuing divisions between these decadent cultures could lead to the breakup of the USA, Mexico and Canada. The only culture that is on the upswing, according to Woodard, is one comprising the Canadian and Greenland natives of the far north, whom he idealizes beyond any semblance to reality. His analysis of the predictability of political positions taken different parts of the US is interesting and generally persuasive.
Sadly no, I would not buy another book, given the author's highly politicized agenda. If one is a serious historian, one avoids politicizing, especially that of a blatant nature. The premise is good: namely that North America can historically be divided into eleven "nations", and can be better understood, by analyzing historical events and attitudes using such context. However, the author leaps into the present day and projects the nations of old as if they exist today, with unchanged attitudes over several centuries, and posits that is what we see today, attitudes that persist more aligned with the antebellum south and the reasons for the American Civil War. It's quite a leap! It presumes that attitudes never change, despite the lives and passing of many generations in between! (Shame!) To borrow from people of the author's ilk and the criticisms they use against opponents, it is a vast oversimplification that thoroughly misunderstands 21st century policies and the beliefs and attitudes of the people in those "nations". It is almost an insult. At the very end, the author glorifies the inhabitants of the "First Nation." Come on. Advocacy is not becoming to a work that wants to be taken seriously. I have no problems with such advocacy, but put it in a second book. Leave book one for an admirable thesis on "American Nations." Leave the politicizing to book two (so I don't have to buy it).
I have a lot to say about this book and really bought and read it as a reference to better understand the American regions for the sake of writing my own book. For America of a bygone age, yes it succeeds. For an understanding of modern America in the 21st century, it needs many more chapters, not merely the few 1 or 2 chapters near the end or the epilogue. I'd write a longer critique but sadly I don't have the time to reread this book. If you don't mind skipping the last few chapters of a book, it is somewhat interesting. I'd give this book an additional star or two, but the flaws in this book need to be pointed out.
As I've already summarized, the thesis of these separate American nations is interesting. As a historical work, it is of interest. As a modern work, it falls flat, unless the author could seamlessly transition to the present, by presenting far more to say why things haven't changed in over 200 years, and if indeed things haven't changed, by presenting more evidence. More work yes, but it makes this book seem better researched.
The narrator wasn't bad. My only complaint was that he sounded like Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Is that the narrator's fault? Of course not. But it was slightly distracting nonetheless.
Yes, there are redeeming qualities. The first 75% of the book is worth reading, or listening to, as in my case. The last 25% really sank into severe politicizing. It's very annoying and detracts from the book (even though I don't come from Tidewater or the Deep South), turning it into a political tract instead of a scholarly work. But what else will you find in this day and age that we live in?
It takes a great deal to impress me with a book on American history. American Nations did that, both with its scope and accessibility. It truly provides an idiosyncratic take on the development of the United States (and to a lesser extent Canada and Mexico). The narration is also quite clear and engaging.
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