ALBION’S SEED by David Hackett Fischer

by JF

A very novel and most compelling historical treatise that traces four very different and recognizable “folkways” of British settlement in the New World from roughly the years 1600 to 1800. The author’s premise, once he outlines it, is beyond convincing, and it is fascinating that seemingly no other historians have picked up on the set of cultural patterns which Fischer renders obvious. These patterns, these “folkways,” according to Fischer, are as follows:

1) British Congregationalists (Puritans) and Separatists (Pilgrims), originating largely from southeastern Britain, settled in New England mostly in the early to mid-1600′s because of Royalist oppression occurring against them in their homeland at that time, and they carried their distinctive southeast-British, puritanical culture with them and transmitted it to their posterity to this day.

2) British Royalists, or Cavaliers, originating largely from southwestern Britain, settled in tidewater Virginia in the late 1600′s due to Congregational oppression occurring against them in their homeland at that time, and they carried their distinctive southwestern elitist British culture with them and transmitted it to their posterity to this day.

3) British Quakers, originating from the northern middle of Britain, settled in Delaware and Pennsylvania in the first half of the 1700′s because of the oppression from all sides that was occurring against them in Britain at the time, and they carried their distinctive north-midland, Quaker culture with them and transmitted it to their posterity to this day.

4) Northern “borderland” Britons and Scotch-Irish, originating on either side of the British border with Scotland, and in Northern Ireland, because of the constant ravages of war and poverty in that portion of Britain, settled in a steady stream throughout the 1700′s into the Appalachians and America’s “Backcountry,” and they carried their distinctive British “Borderer” culture with them and transmitted it to their posterity to this day.

The author shows how these distinctive cultures affected the development of America throughout its history, and how these same four regional cultures can still be easily discerned today. Many esoteric and engrossing little American historical questions are answered by this author: such as, why it was inevitable that Virginia would have its northern portion splinter off into West Virginia; why New England today has such strict “gun control” measures and why Texas does not; why the backcountry settlers typically failed to make peace with the North American Indians but preferred unrelenting warfare and genocide, etc.

Another interesting thing that can be discerned is that each of the four “folkways” got different parts of the Gospel message right, but none of them got the whole thing right.

This is a massive tome of about 500 pages, brilliantly researched and written. Its central thesis is quite singular. This book is extremely recommendable and cannot fail to stimulate any and all American or British history buffs.

Rating: Δ Δ Δ Δ Δ
3/2010

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