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Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (1989)

af David Hackett Fischer

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1,620287,925 (4.48)99
This fascinating book is the first volume in a projected cultural history of the United States, from the earliest English settlements to our own time. It is a history of American folkways as they have changed through time, and it argues a thesis about the importance for the United States of having been British in its cultural origins. While most people in the United States today have no British ancestors, they have assimilated regional cultures which were created by British colonists, even while preserving ethnic identities at the same time. In this sense, nearly all Americans are "Albion's Seed," no matter what their ethnicity may be. The concluding section of this remarkable book explores the ways that regional cultures have continued to dominate national politics from 1789 to 1988, and still help to shape attitudes toward education, government, gender, and violence, on which differences between American regions are greater than between European nations.… (mere)
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Albion's Seed posits the existence of at least 11 distinct regional cultures in America and focuses on the first and largest 4, these were the founding cultures. They are New England, Virginia and the coastal south, the Mid Atlantic (PA, NJ, part of MD), and the "backcountry" which is basically Appalachia from PA southward. These regions were settled from different parts of England, respectively: East Anglia, southern and central England (Wessex and Mercia). the English midlands, and the border regions of England-Scotland-northern Ireland. Fischer contends the 17th and early 18th century established the cultural patterns in these regions that still exist today. He provides extensive evidence which is very convincing. I learned as much about English culture as American. Although published in 1989 it is just as relevant today, it's a classic. It will change how I view the US and UK forever, a perspective mind shift. It goes a long way to explaining our current problems and is a reminder that the US has always had internal conflict between cultures. Fischer says each culture has different ideas of what it means to be American, what freedom means. These competing cultures have been its strength over time even when they sometimes appear to be at each other's throats. ( )
2 stem Stbalbach | Oct 25, 2020 |
From Novelist: The first volume in a cultural history of America examines the different lives and customs of the first groups of immigrants to America and assesses the importance of those traditions for contemporary American life.
  mackfuma | Oct 17, 2020 |
This ambitious volume identifies four regional cultures which migrated from the British Isles to America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Fischer examines each culture in depth, particularly noting thing which set each culture apart from others. It's a classic work covering regional differences and how those differences play out in interacting with one another even down to the late twentieth century. For genealogists, it provides excellent background material for the study of ancestors from each of these groups. As I read the book, I participated in a discussion with other genealogists from across the United States. I identified most with the Puritans, Cavaliers, and Quakers, and least with the Backcountry Scots-Irish. Since I live in an area where many residents embrace their Scots-Irish ancestor, this surprised me. However, as I looked at the majority of my ancestry, it really falls into the first three groups. While some of my Cavalier ancestors were some of the indentured servants they brought along, I still identified more with that culture than with the Backcountry culture. My genetic composition includes all four groups. Excellent book. Highly recommended. ( )
1 stem thornton37814 | Jul 18, 2018 |
Tracing four American folkways from the English settlers who first established them, Fisher argues that many practices we now deem characteristically American were actually transplants from English cultures, preserved in immigrants’ practices longer than they survived in the mother country. He covers the Puritans, Virginia Cavaliers and the poorer people they brought along, the Quakers, and the Scotch-Irish back-country folks. It’s hard not to see the Quakers coming off best here—the Cavaliers and the back-country traditions involve a lot of violence and indifference to education/fetishization of hierarchy, and the Puritans are really protective if you’re one of them and really not if you’re not. A fascinating read. Whether Fisher’s repeated claims that “these practices persist today almost unchanged” are true, however, seems a bit dubious, though it is probably worth noting that Puritan Massachusetts kept trying to punish people for reading porn long into the twentieth century, after most of the country had given up. ( )
1 stem rivkat | Jul 19, 2016 |
Now I know why American's behave the way they do. ( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
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This fascinating book is the first volume in a projected cultural history of the United States, from the earliest English settlements to our own time. It is a history of American folkways as they have changed through time, and it argues a thesis about the importance for the United States of having been British in its cultural origins. While most people in the United States today have no British ancestors, they have assimilated regional cultures which were created by British colonists, even while preserving ethnic identities at the same time. In this sense, nearly all Americans are "Albion's Seed," no matter what their ethnicity may be. The concluding section of this remarkable book explores the ways that regional cultures have continued to dominate national politics from 1789 to 1988, and still help to shape attitudes toward education, government, gender, and violence, on which differences between American regions are greater than between European nations.

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