Synopses & Reviews
This book is the first volume in a cultural history of the United States, from the earliest English settlements to our own time. It is a history of American folkways as they have changed through time, and it argues a thesis about the importance for the United States of having been British in its cultural origins.
From 1629 to 1775, North America was settled by four great waves of English-speaking immigrants. The first was an exodus of Puritans from the east of England to Massachusetts (1629-1640). The second was the movement of a Royalist elite and indentured servants from the south of England to Virginia (ca. 1649-75). The third was the "Friends' migration,"--the Quakers--from the North Midlands and Wales to the Delaware Valley (ca. 1675-1725). The fourth was a great flight from the borderlands of North Britain and northern Ireland to the American backcountry (ca. 1717-75).
These four groups differed in many ways--in religion, rank, generation and place of origin. They brought to America different folkways which became the basis of regional cultures in the United States. They spoke distinctive English dialects and built their houses in diverse ways. They had different ideas of family, marriage and gender; different practices of child-naming and child-raising; different attitudes toward sex, age and death; different rituals of worship and magic; different forms of work and play; different customs of food and dress; different traditions of education and literacy; different modes of settlement and association. They also had profoundly different ideas of comity, order, power and freedom which derived from British folk-traditions. Albion's Seed describes those differences in detail, and discusses the continuing importance of their transference to America.
Today most people in the United States (more than 80 percent) have no British ancestors at all. These many other groups, even while preserving their own ethnic cultures, have also assimilated regional folkways which were transplanted from Britain to America. In that sense, nearly all Americans today are "Albion's Seed," no matter what their ethnic origins may be; but they are so in their different regional ways. The concluding section of Albion's Seed explores the ways that regional cultures have continued to dominate national politics from 1789 to 1988, and still control attitudes toward education, government, gender, and violence, on which differences between American regions are greater than between European nations.
Albion's Seed also argues that the four British folkways created an expansive cultural pluralism that has proved to the more libertarian than any single culture alone could be. Together they became the determinants of a voluntary society in the United States.
"The finest work of synthesis in early American history in more than fifty years." Michael Kammen
"An important and seminal work. No serious historian is likely to question the existence of the four cultures Fischer identifies. No one else has so clearly differentiated them from each other....This volume will give direction not only to the author's future work but to the research of many other historians." Edmund S. Morgan, The New York Review of Books
"An important and brilliant study." John Murrin, Princeton University
"Could not be much bigger or more ambitious. It is the first in a series of volumes that he hopes will eventually constiture a cultural history of the United States....This book starts his series with a bang a big band....Remarkable....A revisionist blockbuster." Gordon Wood, The New Republic
"The most splendid book of this generation's most gifted scholar." Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Wilson Quarterly
"One of the most thought-provoking works of American history to appear in recent years....What is remarkable is how successful Fischer is in casting colonial America in a new light." Eric Foner, History Book Club Review
"Professor Fischer's careful research and analysis opens a much needed discussion of cultural character and origins in North America. The variety and complexity of historical sources will inform the work of other cultural historians and analysts."--Nadesan Permaul, UC Berkeley
"This is history at a lively pace, peppered with curious details about the origins of families....The author makes a convincing case."--Dolores and Roger Flaherty, Chicago Sun-Times
"A pleasure to read, for it is written with Fischer's characteristic perspicuity. Moreover, the numerous drawings by Jennifer Brody and maps by Andrew Mudryk are a visual treat."--Raymond A. Mohl, Review Essay
"The kind of book one can open to almost any page and immediately become engrossed....readers will enjoy and benefit from this book....We eagerly await volume two."--Neil R. Stout, Vermont History
"Holds up to readers a mirror in which they can discover in themselves and in their own world the persistence of their heritage....An engrossing work that will whet the appetite for more."--The National Genealogical Society Quarterly
"Ingenious and provocative....Raises matters of cardinal interest."--IThe Times Literary Supplement
"A splendid work of historical scholarship. . . . based on an original conception of cultural history which I find extremely usable. Eminently readable."--Omer Hadziselimovic, Earlham College [SEE REVIEW CARD FOR ACCENTS ON LAST NAME]
"[A] sprightly analysis....This is history at a lively pace, peppered with curious details about the origins of familiar words and practices....The author makes a convincing case for his claim that `in a cultural sense most Americans are Albion's seed."--Chicago Sun-Times
"One of the most interesting, important, and ambitious books about American cultural and social origins ever written....A richly rewarding book, and one of great significance....It blends the best of new and old scholarship in lucid language designed to attract laymen and students alike. Very simply, Albion's Seed is a splendid achievement."--Michael Kammen, New York Newsday
"David Hackett Fischer's book could not be much bigger or more ambitious. It is the first in a series of volumes that he hopes will eventually constitute a cultural history of the United States....This book starts his series with a bang--a big bang....Remarkable....A revisionist blockbuster."--Gordon Wood, The New Republic
"Beautifully produced, this work should popularize the discoveries of a generation of scholars in the new social history. Anyone interested in these four cultures of the Anglo-American colonists will find here population data, family life, community mores, and achetypical individuals, portrayed in a clear and often lively text, thoughtfully analyzed illustrations, and wonderful maps."--Stephen Saunders Webb, Washington Post Book World
This fascinating book is the first volume in a projected cultural history of the United States, from the earliest English settlements to our own time. It is a history of American folkways as they have changed through time, and it argues a thesis about the importance for the United States of having been British in its cultural origins.
While most people in the United States today have no British ancestors, they have assimilated regional cultures which were created by British colonists, even while preserving ethnic identities at the same time. In this sense, nearly all Americans are "Albion's Seed," no matter what their ethnicity may be. The concluding section of this remarkable book explores the ways that regional cultures have continued to dominate national politics from 1789 to 1988, and still help to shape attitudes toward education, government, gender, and violence, on which differences between American regions are greater than between European nations.
About the Author
David Hackett Fischer is Warren Professor of History at Brandeis University. He is the author of numerous books, including Paul Revere's Ride and Growing Old in America.