Synopses & Reviews
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 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. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Winner of the 2012 Maine Literary Award for Non-fiction
“Mr. Woodard’s approach is breezier than Mr. Fischer’s and more historical than Mr. Garreau’s, but he has earned a place on the shelf between them." The Wall Street Journal
“[C]ompelling and informative.”
“One of the most original books I read in the last year was American Nations
….During my five years as an Ambassador in the United States, I spent a lot of time studying the voting patterns of different states and reading American history, and I have to say I find Woodard’s thesis to be fully borne out by my own observations.”
] sets itself apart by delving deep into history to trace our current divides to enthno-cultural differences that emerged during the country’s earliest settlement.”
“In a compelling mash-up of the contemporary political geography of authors like Joel Garreau and Dante Chinni with the ethnography and history of David Hackett Finscher (Albion’s Seed), [Colin] Woodard divides North America into eleven distinct “nations”.
“[Colin] Woodard offers a fascinating way to parse American (writ large) politics and history in this excellent book.”
“Colin Woodard debunks the simplistic notion of Left Coast, red state, blues state and other broad-brush efforts to peg America’s differences….American Nations
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….The key to the [American Nations
]’s effectiveness is Woodard’s skill—and irreverence—in delving into history with no qualms about being both brisk and contrarian….[I]n offering us a way to better understand the forces at play in the rumpus room of current American politics, Colin Woodard has scored a true triumph. I am going to order copies for my father and sister immediately—and I hope Woodard gets a wide hearing for his fascinating study.”
“Fascinating….Engrossing….In the end, though, [American Nations] is a smart read that feels particularly timely now, when so many would claim a mythically unified “Founding Fathers” as their political ancestors.”
“In American Nations
, [Colin Woodard] persuasively reshapes our understanding of how the American political entity came to be….[A] fascinating new take on history.”
“Provocative reading.” News and Observer
“Well-researched analysis with appeal to both casual and scholarly readers.”
“[F]or people interested in American history and sociology, American Nations
demands reading….American Nations
is important reading.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
The Portland Daily Dispatch
“[Colin] Woodard persuasively argues that since the founding of the United States, 11 distinct geographical “nations” have formed within the Union, each with its own identity and set of values.”
Military History Quarterly
"[Colin] Woodard’s account of American history is a refreshing take, and one I’d recommend to those curious of what causes our cultural differences.”
“If you want to better understand U.S. politics, history, and culture American Nations
is to be required reading….By revealing this continent of rivals, American Nations
will revolutionize the way Americans think about their past, their country, and themselves and is sure to spark controversy.”
The Herald Gazette
“[C]ontroversial and thought-provoking….This is an important sociological study.”
Bill Bushnell, Morning Sentinel
“[A] fascinating new ethnographic history of North America.”
The New Republic Editors’ Pick
The Globalist Top Books of 20112012 Maine Literary Award for Non-fiction
“Mr. Woodard’s approach is breezier than Mr. Fischer’s and more historical than Mr. Garreau’s, but [Woodard] has earned a place on the shelf between them."
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 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 presidential elections.
About the Author
Colin Woodard is a writer, historian, and journalist who has reported from more than fifty foreign countries and six continents. He is a foreign correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor and The Chronicle of Higher Education, and his work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Economist, Smithsonian, The Miami Herald, the Los Angeles Times, and Newsweek.com. He is the author of The Republic of Pirates, The Lobster Coast and Ocean's End. He lives in Portland, Maine.