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American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America Audio Download – Unabridged

4.8 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Colin Woodard has written an interesting book. His basic thesis is very straightforward: that it is possible to have nations that don't have their own states. Using this thesis, he explores the idea that in North American there are multiple nations spread across north Mexico, the USA, and Canada. Woodard traces the origins of these nations from their founding through the various key historical events, such as the American Revolution, the framing of the Constitution, and the Civil War.

Along the way he explains the culture of each nation and discusses how it relates to where the original settlers that constituted each nation came from. Later settlers sought out and settled in areas with a similar background and thus reinforced the original culture. An almost subterranean thread running through the book is an understanding that nations without states aspire, either overtly or instinctively, to become nation states. If there are indeed, as Woodard postulates (and one should note that he is not alone in advancing this idea) multiple stateless nations in North America, then some sort of a redrawing of boundaries is going to take place sooner or later.

Woodard admits as much in his epilogue, but is - correctly in my view - unwilling to speculate on how, when or where. If you accept his initial thesis, and I'm inclined to, then Woodard makes a very persuasive case for there being 11 stateless nations, each with its own ideology and culture, spread across the continent of North America.

Whether you agree with the idea or not, and many won't, I'm sure you will find in this well written book much food for thought. Recommended.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Well written and enjoyable, explains a lot about the USA to the foreigner. After reading it, I feel like I know the USA better than I know my own town. There are only a few dates, great men or battles, but history is springing out from every page of it.
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Format: Paperback
Colin Woodard is an award-winning journalist. In “American Nations”, he argues that US history is best explained as a centuries-long saga of conflict and compromise between rival regional cultures, which in many ways resemble separate nations. This trumps both class and post-1776 immigrant identities. It also explains what lies behind the North-South divide and the red state/blue state dichotomy. Woodard himself is a liberal Democrat and a resident of Maine.

When Woodard calls the regional cultures “nations”, he does so quite literally. They inhabit distinct territories, have different ethnic origins, and speak different dialects of English. Some don't use English at all. The regional cultures also have separate histories until the eve of the American Revolution (and sometimes beyond). Unsurprisingly, their respective ethoses are quite distinct. The author mentions eleven “nations” which he calls Yankeedom, New Netherland, the Midlands, Tidewater, Greater Appalachia, the Deep South, El Norte, the Far West, the Left Coast, New France and First Nation. Of these, New France and First Nation are Canadian and play a less central role in the author's narrative. In the United States, the regional cultures most resembling real nations are Yankeedom, the Deep South and El Norte. Traditionally, the main protagonists in American politics have been Yankeedom and the Deep South, with the others either lining up behind one of these, or trying to play a mediating role between them. Today, El Norte (the Mexicans of the US Southwest) has become another central player. Curiously, Woodard doesn't count Blacks as a separate nation. He seems to regard them as an idiosyncratic (and oppressed) component of the Deep South.

Woodard doesn't deny that the cultures of some of the nations have changed.
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Format: Hardcover
Anyone who wants to understand why America is the way it is, why Americans vote the way they do, why political parties are so adversarial and why political squabbles seem to generate such viciousness and hostility, why these days it seems more like the Divided States of America, than the United, should read this book.

The answer is, to Woodward, because America has never been a united nation to begin with. Never was, probably never will be. Woodward's argument is that America is effectively a confederation of eleven stateless nations that have maintained consistent internal identities over centuries, whilst interacting and allying with one another in different combinations to produce different political outcomes. To quote this book, "it is fruitless to search for the characteristics of an 'American' identity, because each nation has its own notion of what being American should mean." One of the major tensions produced by these differing stateless nations has been the emergence of two effective superpowers, Yankeedom and the Deep South, two regions almost diametrically opposed to one another's cultural, political, moral, civil and religious values. This conflict has been playing out throughout the lifetime of the United States and there seems to be plenty of mileage left.

Reading this book one can't help but feel that it might have been the best thing for the United States as a nation to let the Confederacy go peacefully in 1861, rather than fighting a civil war to preserve the Union.
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