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

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  9,029 ratings  ·  1,559 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" ...more
Hardcover, 371 pages
Published September 29th 2011 by Viking
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Andrey Davydov It's a very fast-paced read as far as history books go. Not a lot of dates or minutiae, few footnotes. Even if you frequently check out the people and…moreIt's a very fast-paced read as far as history books go. Not a lot of dates or minutiae, few footnotes. Even if you frequently check out the people and events mentioned in the book on the net, you can still easily get back into the narrative. It reads like a description of a setting in a PC game.(less)
Jeremy Not very well: the main premise of the book is that the waves of colonization and immigration into North America have formed indelible regional charac…moreNot very well: the main premise of the book is that the waves of colonization and immigration into North America have formed indelible regional characteristics, loosely tied to the original site of the arrivals and then the expansion from those waves.

As I recall, there is some recognition of the indigenous occupants of the Tex/Mex borderlands region and other parts of the SW, but overall I don't recall much insight from the perspective of the peoples who were in residence to begin with. It's been a while since I read the book, so I may be overlooking some less-spotlighted influences, but that ought to tell you something about how the book was focused (although I suppose it could also be telling you something about my own biases as a reader.)(less)

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Jan 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, favorites
Growing up in the South I always wondered why my family was so different from those around us. We were friendly with the people in our community but when serious discussions came up my parents grew quiet. Our friends and neighbors had no such reservations. They were opinionated and always eager for a fight of any kind whether with fists or words. We lived side and by side and spoke the same language but I always got the sense that we were just not ‘one of them.’

My family was never really gung-ho
Nov 17, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: history
The good first: I buy the premise of this book, that the U.S. is made up of rival nations with borders vastly different from the regions depicted on common maps of the country. And I enjoyed the parts that seek to illustrate the founding and spreading of U.S. colonies and what later became U.S. territory.

When Woodard tries to characterize the people of the land, however, he brushes with broad, unflattering strokes that I found hard to take seriously. His discussion concerns missionaries, slave
John Parris
May 06, 2012 rated it liked it
It was good, but particularly toward the end became more the author's opinion rather than statistical evidence or other facts. He is from Maine and allowed his predjudices to show. According to him, all Southerners (comprised of Tidewater, Deep South, and Appalachia) are Republicans, conservative, racist, backward and so on with the usual stereotypes. New Englanders are, of course, progressive, educated, and egalitarian, though he does admit to past intolerance. I live here and let me tell you t ...more
Steve Kettmann
Sep 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Jon Stewart can’t do it all alone. The Daily Show has evolved toward more open-minded consideration of the issues of the day and less outright comedy because Stewart still thinks honest people of good faith can cut through the nonsense and figure out problems in a way any reasonable person can admit makes sense. Colin Woodard’s American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America pulls off the unlikely feat of both offering the tools for just such a broader, deeper ...more
Jan 31, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Journalist and amateur historian Colin Woodard makes a lot of interesting assertions on the back of thin evidence. Splitting North America into eleven competing “nations,” or more accurately, cultural archetypes, Woodard goes to great lengths to explain the history of the United States, not as a single hegemonic unit, but as many smaller, competing units within a federal framework.
Woodard himself explains his work as a synthesis, and looking through the footnotes of American Nations, one wonder
Nov 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: overdrive, audio
It was educational seeing how the various regions of the United States historically coalesced, influenced by features such as the characteristics, histories, economies and interests of their early inhabitants. However, it was also pretty disheartening. After having read both this book and “Caste” by Isabel Wilkerson I am even more pessimistic than I was about the possibility for any real progress - social, environmental, economic or otherwise. It seems like we are encased in granite and everythi ...more
Jim Mullen
Mar 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
I don't care how much American history you know, or think you know, this book, awkwardly sub-titled “A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures,” is a revelation. I'll give you an example of my own -- where is the oldest building made by Europeans in the U.S? If you grew up in the Northeast, you're probably thinking it’s in Boston or Philadelphia. Went to school in the Southeast, maybe it’s in St. Augustine or New Orleans. So where you grew up has a lot to do with what you think you know. D ...more
Douglas Wilson
Apr 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
I give this book 4 stars because his underlying observation is so cogent, so obvious, and so explanatory. Just wonderful. Anybody who sees and describes the reality that makes up the American nations deserves all the accolades we can throw at him. At the same time, the author's leftism leads him to say some inexcusably silly things, particularly near the end of the book. Those parts pulled down one and two stars. One gets the feeling that some of what is driving this analysis is identity politic ...more
Jun 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I am very enthusiastic about this 2011 book and would recommend it heartily, even to people who might not, themselves, be inclined to give it five stars. Colin Woodard assigns all of North America to one of eleven regions, as opposed to Joel Garreau's NINE NATIONS (OF NORTH AMERICA) back in 1981. In so doing, Woodard ignored the southern tip of Florida but added four brand-new regions: "New Netherland" (Greater New York) and a tri-sected South that replaced a unified Confederacy with "Tidewater, ...more
Elizabeth Bear
Feb 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
**Looks around nervously**

So. Er. That's concerning. Also, I feel seen.

This book was written in 2010-ish, and it's enlightening, edifying, and full of bits of American history of which I was previously unaware, or details that I definitely didn't learn in high school history class. (Such as Alexander Hamilton's role in provoking the Whiskey Rebellion by facilitating the disenfranchisement of rural people holding federal debt, and then taxing the whiskey they used as currency payable in hard coi
Historically this is excellent. And the groupings/ regional cultures fairly accurate by name and value cores for their political stances. Yet, he analyzed the entire (not just one or two but nearly all the main 6 to 8 groups) through slanted "eyes" toward their progressions, IMHO. The more modern he approaches in placements to 2011 (when this was printed)- the more crooked the "truth" gets. Because he uses language and measurements that are chuck filled with his Maine end bias.

The historical is
My problem with broad-stroke history books is that they are far too broad, and that you cannot really make claims or assertions because there simply isn’t enough evidence provided to back them up. Ultimately this is the greatest weakness of Woodard’s book. It’s a very interesting premise, and one that I largely find to be true and intuitive if you travel and live in different places in this country. I grew up in Nebraska, and found my time in North Carolina to be an interesting study, mostly in ...more
Mike Ratner
Jan 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended with reservations; the first half of the book, covering the historical origins of the 11 diverse "nations" that comprise modern United States, is brilliant. For instance, most people don't realize that the vibrant multicultural entity that is New York was just like that continuously all the way back to its founding as New Amsterdam, which was the most diverse and "progressive" city of its time. Or that Deep South was founded by Barbados plantators, unlike the "Tidewater" area of Virg ...more
Dec 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I can't recommend this book highly enough. It explains why the different territories of the country have the different political bents that they do. And I learned facts about American history that I had never previously heard. The ending gets a little too biased and subjective, but up until then it's fascinating. ...more
David R.
Mar 26, 2012 rated it did not like it
Woodard's effort to rethink North American demographics is a disappointment. And it's really not his own model, either: the Eleven-nation concept is entirely derivative of Garreau's "Nine Nations" of the '80s and Fischer's "Albion's Seed" of the 90s. I suppose the model can help to explain some of North America's history, but it doesn't apply well to the modern world. And it doesn't help that Woodard seems obsessed with breaking up the US, Canada and Mexico with especial emphasis on new states o ...more
Jan 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Our country finally makes sense. The facts haven't changed, and even the history we were taught in high school and college retains its basic outlines. But why we are the way we are, with all the frustrations we suffer because of our politics, our religions, our battling/baffling cultural wars: now I begin to understand.

Of course we all knew that the parts of North America were settled by people with different - wildly different, as it turns out - origins. But because American history as it's usu
David Huff
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-book
Most of us, when we hear the words “United States”, likely make an immediate mental reference to the 50 states which form the Union, and this of course is by definition correct. Author Colin Woodard, in his fascinating book “American Nations”, presents a remarkably different and compelling viewpoint: that America as we know it is actually comprised of eleven different “nations”, each having its own unique historical, cultural and political features and views. Further, these “nations” are actuall ...more
Aug 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading the reviews of this book on goodreads I am struck by how little people know about American history, and that is, the American continent, not the false association of America as the United States. The fact is that the thesis presented in American Nations is not really a very innovative concept, but more of a nuanced one. The melting pot versus salad bowl concept has been around for going on generations now. The historian David Hendrickson just a few years ago put out a book, Peace Pact, w ...more
Pete Jones
Jan 16, 2013 rated it liked it
This book starts as what appears to be a well researched look at how 11 different regions of the United States (nations, as the author calls them) have shaped the culture and politics of the United States. As the book progresses, it turns into something approaching a screed. At the end of the book, it’s clear that the author is a dyed in the wool citizen of Yankeedom and that in his opinion only Yankeedom and its progeny (according to his research) the Left Coast have it right. The real problem ...more
Dec 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Enlightening, imperfect and potentially dangerous. Woodard creates a narrative of the US as several nations living side by side. The story is compelling enough to ring true in my experience. So many competing cultural values are articulately described as having roots in various waves of immigration. Unfortunately, it needs better citation and more evidence to be really mind blowing. He relies heavily on the work of David Hackett Fischer but is much more judgmental. The dangerous part is that it ...more
Mar 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history

Forget the conventional North America map and take a look instead at the map on the cover of AMERICAN NATIONS...

Yankeedom? New Netherland? the Midlands? Tidewater? Greater Appalachia? The Deep South? New France? El Norte? The Left Coast? the Far West? First Nation?? What kind of North American map is that??

Well, even folks who think they don't know much about geography surely know plenty enough to do a double-take. And that's what happened to me. I saw that map and meant to keep walking, but
Jun 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
There's something inherently compelling about this narrative. I found myself talking about the ideas in this book nonstop to my friends and anyone who would listen. It's a powerful explanation for the evolution of politics and power in the US.

I'm always interested in stories that explore the nature and development of power-and this book definitely scratches that itch. Towards the end, I found myself making connections with recent political developments. Of course Republicans emphasize a strong m
Christian Geirsson
Feb 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
An incredible, paradigm-shifting cultural studies book, for my understanding personally. I considered giving it 5 stars, but generally reserve that rating for the spiritually-moving, like Zen and the Art and Life of Pi, and fiction of that ilk. Anyway, a re-orienting learning experience that changes the way one can contemplate American history and culture.

Essentially, this is the story of 11 distinct cultures playing influential roles on each other and the geopolitical development of North Amer
Bob Pearson
Dec 02, 2012 rated it liked it
I really give this book 3.5. The thesis is quite intriguing -- that America is actually composed of 11 (count 'em) different nations, and the outcome of domestic political events is the function of the interplay among these relatively distinct groups. Moreover Woodard posits that these 11 nations have persisted in their original orientation over time, in fact since the moment they arrived on the North American continent. To think about this notion, you might remember THE EUROPEANS by Luigi Barzi ...more
Aug 02, 2014 rated it it was ok
This is the sort of thesis that you might come up with at bar trivia night with your friends, and you get all excited and write it all down on napkins, and then in the morning when you sober up you look at your napkins and realize that this all falls apart way too quickly. It works as a brief thought exercise. I could see myself introducing this concept to an American History class during one early lecture, just to get people thinking about the various colonies and how they were settled, and how ...more
Lauren Albert
It's interesting how Woodard traces out voting patterns and cultural attitudes according to which "nation" inhabits a region rather than dividing people up by state. My only problem with the book is that, while I tend to agree with all the axes he has to grind, I always worry about a writer's objectivity in reviewing evidence when he or she so agressively and openly grinds those axes in a book. It also means that some people who might find the book very interesting will be turned off by his opin ...more
Jay Perkins
Nov 18, 2013 rated it liked it
In this book, Colin Woodard explains that the United States (and broader North America) is so divided culturally and politically because the country is actually made up of unseen, borderless nations, which have different values coming from their diverse pasts and experiences. Those who move into these areas assimilate the values of that particular nation.

Woodard names eleven different nations: "Yankeedom" (founded by Calvinistic Puritans who valued community and authority over the individual); t
Robert  Baird
Dec 14, 2011 rated it liked it
The first 22 (of 28) chapters, or so, of this book are a very rich and engaging historical analysis of significant North American events, even if the author is overly general and un-nuanced in the descriptions of his various regional subcultures, and even if he slips into dogmatic political rants in a few brief spells. The most rewarding stretches of this book are the author's unpacking of complicated social-cultural-political backstories to North American colonization, the US Revolutionary War, ...more
Blaine Welgraven
Woodard's "American Nations" begins with an intriguing premise, that the American nation we all know is really a federation of eleven differing socio-ethnic-regions, with the "driving force of American politics" not "primarily...a class struggle or tension between agrarian and commercial interests," but ultimately a "clash between shifting coalitions of ethno-regional nations, one invariably headed by the Deep South, the other by Yankeedom."

With his premise established, Woodard first defines his
Feb 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I found this a very interesting book which provides a lot of insight on the red state, blue state cultural distinctions that exist today. I did not find this book as good as David Hackett Fischer's Albion's Seed, but it does describe more American cultures including Spanish and French.

It's "nations" are: El Norte (Spanish), New France (Quebec and Creole Louisiana), Tidewater, Yankeedom (New England), New Netherland (New York City), Deep South, Midlands (Pennsylvania), Greater Appalachia (Border
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