Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America

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Oxford University Press, 1989 - Fiction - 946 pages
10 Reviews
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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Thorough and thick, this book clocks in at 900 pages and garnered many comments purely on that measure. Fascinating for the ground it covers, which is exstensive in time, space and populations, Albion's Seed changed how I looked at the various groups that made up and contributed to American history. The review of the four cultures gives an amazing set of lenses, through which you can see develop the many fascinating variations of American cultures - liberal, libertarian, conservative, democrat, republican, Deep Southerner, respectable New Englander, and so forth. Missing are the midland and Pacific states, but including them would probably strain the modern technology of bookbinding. Beyond noting it changed how I see and interpret American culture, it's hard to summarize Fischer's work in any detail. Often I wished for a more statistical or archeological evidence base, rather than the impressionistic comments he often uses. But if you've got the time, a very interesting book with very broad roots and implications.  

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Book was ok. Did not really like the format, or the information in it.

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About the author (1989)


David Hackett Fischer is Warren Professor of History at Brandeis University. He is the author of numerous books, including Paul Revere's Ride and Growing Old in America.

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