61 pages 2 hours read

Colin Woodard

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

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2011

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Colin Woodard’s 2011 book, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America takes a fascinating look at American regionalism and the 11 territories that continue to shape North America. Woodard asserts that North America comprises 11 distinct nations, each containing its own unique history. Taking readers on a journey that reveals the origins of our fractured continent, Woodard offers a revelatory perspective on American identity and the ways the conflicts between regions have molded our past and continue to shape our present. Each region maintains its distinctive ideals and identities, even today, resulting in the composition of the United States Congress and the county election maps of presidential elections.

In Woodard’s view, the American Revolution contained six revolutions in one, because each region had a different reaction and experience during the revolution. Some, such as Yankeedom, were in favor of full-fledged revolution, while the elite in the Deep South feared the revolution would unleash a widespread slave revolt. Only Yankeedom experienced the revolution as a fight for revolutionary ideals, while the other regions went along with some ambivalence.

After the Revolution, regional differences in culture imposed upon the West, as the Yankees claimed many of the northern areas. The Midlanders moved into the middle sections of the country, imposing a Germanic culture, and the Deep South imposed its slave-owning culture on southern parts of the West, including Texas. Meanwhile, the Tidewater, facing declining fortunes, and New Netherland, were kept hemmed to the coast. The West Coast became somewhat Yankee in nature, given that Yankees largely settled areas of northern California, Oregon, and Washington, while it also had an Appalachian streak of individualism.

The Civil War pitted the two main regional cultures of the mid-19th century, Yankeedom and the Deep South, against each other. Woodard argues that the South might have been able to secede peacefully if the Confederate forces had not attacked the federal fort at Charleston. Most of the other regions resented Yankees and were ambivalent about war until the attack on Fort Sumter.

In the last section, Woodard traces the development of the culture wars that have pitted the Northern Alliance, composed of Yankeedom, New Netherland, and the Left Coast against the Dixie bloc of Appalachia, the Deep South, and the Tidewater. He also traces the growth of the power of El Norte, where people of Mexican descent are forging a political and cultural comeback, and the resurgence of the First Nations people of Canada. He writes that we are unlikely to be sustainable as a nation unless we can return to the tenets of our government, which includes open debate and compromise.