June 2013

American Nations

Colin Woodard, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America (New York: Penguin Books, 2011

Woodard - American Nations
Colin Woodard is a journalist. He is not a historian. This is an important thing to keep in mind as you read his book. He paints North American political history with broad brushstrokes that seem to make sense on first reading, but somehow dissolve in the detail. His book simply lacks the historian’s eye for detail. Still he presents an interesting way to think about the country, its settlement, and its contemporary struggles and disagreements. There is much to commend the book, but strict academic accuracy isn’t probably the book’s best feature. It is easy to find historical misrepresentations and interpretations that are presented as accomplished fact.

The book simply hasn’t received much review from historians. Its acclaim has come mostly from journalists, who seem to like the framework it presents. I do too. I am sure that i will use some of his perspectives as I interpret the events of our time and the various cultures I encounter as I travel around the continent.

The book is worth a good read. His perspective is useful when one considered the misrepresentations of much of textbook American history. Paying attention to the regional variations does give a good perspective on American politics. It may well be more of a political anthropology book than a strict history book as one might first expect.