Jane's Reviews > Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America

Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fischer
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bookshelves: reviewed, nonfiction, culture, library

This book is a fat, fat tome indeed! It's made to be consulted--not really read through--a real reference work!

I concentrated on only two of the British groups out of the four covered--extensively: The Quakers ["North Midlands to the Delaware"] and the Scotch-Irish ["Borderlands to the Backcountry"]. The other two groups covered are: "East Anglia to Massachusetts" and "South of England to Virginia".

I was interested in reading about the first two particular groups, since both are part of my ethnic background: [Welsh Quakers and 'Scotch-Irish'.] There is *so* much information to digest and remember.

The title of each section tells basically from what part of England that particular group came. The Quakers were mainly from the Midlands and from pretty much all over Wales, but most were concentrated in the North. Many of their folkways were transplanted to this country: plain dress, architecture [plain and airy, but using stone, a plentiful local material], names they chose for their children, ways of raising children and attitude toward family. William Penn, of whom there's an extensive biography, was very open in whom he allowed to live there; so there are many Germans, Pietist in religion, who have the same peaceful ideas as Quakers. The Welsh were concentrated in what was called the 'Welsh Tract', near Philadelphia. Finally, after Penn, the Welsh were divided into two different counties so they wouldn't all be bunched into one. You could call this the first 'gerrymandering.'
Penn believed in what he called 'reciprocal liberty' [based on the Golden Rule] and in 'freedom of conscience.'

Fischer prefers the name Scots-Irish or Borderers to 'Scotch-Irish'. He feels that 'Scotch-Irish' is an American coinage. This group came from the land bordering the Irish Sea--Northern Ireland, Scotland, and English Border country. In one letter the writer says: "we are a mix'd medley"--Celtic, Roman, English, Scandinavian, Irish and Scottish.
They had a clan system, with the equivalent of a clan chieftain. Their architecture was the log cabin, which they had built previously in the Border Country.
There is a section on naming children, raising them, and families.
Their religious customs were brought over from the Border Country. Evangelical religion and camp meetings were adapted from Border Country practices and were not indigenously American.
Food included the potato, very important back home, pancakes or scones [from Scandinavian, meaning 'crust']. They adapted oatmeal mush into cornmeal mush in this country. There was so much corn and no oats.
Their concept of freedom was 'elbow room.' So they pushed West.

The pencil or charcoal drawings were amazing. The maps were maybe TOO detailed.

I found a fun way to consult this book. Since the index is so extensive, just look up what you want. Just browse.
For instance I found:
*in the Puritan section, there's a passage on ball games. It traces the antecedents of baseball and gives due recognition to Abner Doubleday as having been the first to codify baseball rules.
*The Liberty Bell was conceived of and paid for by Quakers--before the Revolution. They didn't mean "liberty" in the Revolutionary War sense of freedom from Great Britain, but Penn's 'reciprocal liberty.'
*An interesting section on Quaker food: I found out what cream cheese originally consisted of: partially dehydrated sour cream. The Quakers also came up with dried beef. They borrowed scrapple [meat and buckwheat] from the Germans.
*Scots-Irish marriage customs: involuntary or voluntary abduction of the bride. This custom was brought over from the Border Country. Andrew Jackson's wife was voluntarily abducted. A good novel on Rachel Jackson is The President's Lady

This was a fascinating peek into American history and British folkways. Recommended!!
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Reading Progress

July 16, 2013 – Shelved
July 16, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read
July 30, 2013 – Started Reading
July 30, 2013 –
page 438
45.06% "This is misleading. I'm only reading about the Quakers, then I'll finish up with the Scotch-Irish: both part of my ethic background."
July 31, 2013 –
page 480
49.38%
August 3, 2013 –
page 551
56.69%
August 4, 2013 –
page 605
62.24% "reciprocal liberty concept."
August 4, 2013 – Shelved as: reviewed
August 4, 2013 – Finished Reading
August 6, 2013 – Shelved as: nonfiction
August 7, 2013 – Shelved as: culture
April 2, 2019 – Shelved as: library

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