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Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America Paperback – Mar 1 1991

4.8 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 972 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; unknown edition (March 1 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195069056
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195069051
  • Product Dimensions: 23.3 x 5 x 15.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #212,713 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Library Journal

This cultural history explains the European settlement of the United States as voluntary migrations from four English cultural centers. Families of zealous, literate Puritan yeomen and artisans from urbanized East Anglia established a religious community in Massachusetts (1629-40); royalist cavaliers headed by Sir William Berkeley and young, male indentured servants from the south and west of England built a highly stratified agrarian way of life in Virginia (1640-70); egalitarian Quakers of modest social standing from the North Midlands resettled in the Delaware Valley and promoted a social pluralism (1675-1715); and, in by far the largest migration (1717-75), poor borderland families of English, Scots, and Irish fled a violent environment to seek a better life in a similarly uncertain American backcountry. These four cultures, reflected in regional patterns of language, architecture, literacy, dress, sport, social structure, religious beliefs, and familial ways, persisted in the American settlements. The final chapter shows the significance of these regional cultures for American history up to the present. Insightful, fresh, interesting, and well-written, this synthesis of traditional and more current historical scholarship provides a model for interpretations of the American character. Subsequent volumes of this promised multivolume work will be eagerly awaited. Highly recommended for the general reader and the scholar.
- David Szatmary, Univ. of Washington, Seattle
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"Professor Fischer's careful research and analysis opens a much needed discussion of cultural character and origins in North America. The variety and complexity of historical sources will inform the work of other cultural historians and analysts."--Nadesan Permaul, UC Berkeley

"This is history at a lively pace, peppered with curious details about the origins of families....The author makes a convincing case."--Dolores and Roger Flaherty, Chicago Sun-Times

"A pleasure to read, for it is written with Fischer's characteristic perspicuity. Moreover, the numerous drawings by Jennifer Brody and maps by Andrew Mudryk are a visual treat."--Raymond A. Mohl, Review Essay

"The kind of book one can open to almost any page and immediately become engrossed....readers will enjoy and benefit from this book....We eagerly await volume two."--Neil R. Stout, Vermont History

"Holds up to readers a mirror in which they can discover in themselves and in their own world the persistence of their heritage....An engrossing work that will whet the appetite for more."--The National Genealogical Society Quarterly

"Ingenious and provocative....Raises matters of cardinal interest."--IThe Times Literary Supplement

"A splendid work of historical scholarship. . . . based on an original conception of cultural history which I find extremely usable. Eminently readable."--Omer Hadziselimovic, Earlham College [SEE REVIEW CARD FOR ACCENTS ON LAST NAME]

"[A] sprightly analysis....This is history at a lively pace, peppered with curious details about the origins of familiar words and practices....The author makes a convincing case for his claim that `in a cultural sense most Americans are Albion's seed."--Chicago Sun-Times

"One of the most interesting, important, and ambitious books about American cultural and social origins ever written....A richly rewarding book, and one of great significance....It blends the best of new and old scholarship in lucid language designed to attract laymen and students alike. Very simply, Albion's Seed is a splendid achievement."--Michael Kammen, New York Newsday

"David Hackett Fischer's book could not be much bigger or more ambitious. It is the first in a series of volumes that he hopes will eventually constitute a cultural history of the United States....This book starts his series with a bang--a big bang....Remarkable....A revisionist blockbuster."--Gordon Wood, The New Republic

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ON A BLUSTERY MARCH MORNING in the year 1630, a great ship was riding restlessly at anchor in the Solent, near the Isle of Wight. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
For those among us who want to understand America and American culture, look no further. This book is phenominal. This is a profound experience of a book. Personally, I read this book and sensed a true and honest American culture. The four folkways each contributing its influence to American culture, have made this country what it is: A land of freedom and human progress that is possible from that freedom. True, the British transcontinental experiment was founded by people seeking religious freedom, but the essence is that each wanted freedom in its purest sense (The individual sections on "Liberty" are excellent). I am incredibly thankful to Professor Fischer for having an organic perspective to history, he has put together a truly perfect cultural account. Amazing!
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Format: Paperback
What can I say? It's tough reviewing a monumental piece of historical study like this. I consider it the absolute essential reader for anyone intersted in the America and its foundation. Never dull.
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Format: Hardcover
Fischer uses the sociological concept of "Folkways" to organize his exploration of the cultures which created the United States. Folkways are the "ways of life" that combine to create a distinct cultures. In turn, those distinct cultures combine to create our society.
Fischer identifies four relevant folkways: the Puritans of New England, the Cavaliers of Virginia, the Quakers of the Delaware Valley and the Borderers (or Scotch Irish) of the back country.
The most extraordinary part of this long, long book was the manner in which Fischer was able to unpack the regional cultures of the British Isles. As Fischer himself remarks, British historians and social scientists have devoted negligible time and attention to regional culture (as supposed to strictly "local" culture, which is often covered in Britain).
Once Fischer links up the regions in England with their counter parts in America, the once obscure has become obvious. This, I believe, is one of the hallmarks of excellent scholarship.
It's almost impossible to critize anything about this book until the last hundred pages, when Fischer blithely asserts that all events for the past three hundred years are eminently explainable in terms of the four folkways of this book.
I was suprised to see him reach so far, especially since this is "volume 1" of a "proposed five volume set". Since this book was published fifteen years ago, I guess we'll have to be patient while we wait for, "The Ebony Tree: African Folkways in America"
, volume two of the set.
Still, this book was near revelatory in both method and analysis.
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Format: Paperback
Freedom's liberty tree is planted in the fertile soil of the many cultural groups who have made our land a "melting pot." In
Fishcer's brilliant work he traces with fascinating detail the transposition from Britain to the American colonies the folkways that have made each region distinctive. The four folk cultures he delineates are:
1. New England-the Puritans came from the East Anglia region of
England. They were pious, hardworking and intoxicated with theology and ordedr.
2. The Middle Colonies-the Quaker influence is profound in this region of Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey. William Penn and the followers of the Quaker founder George Fox were the most liberal minded of the quartet of folk cultures chronicled by Fischer. The Quaker culture was influential in the southwest and midland counties of Britain. Their belief in religous toleration has added much to American democracy.
3. The tidewider and coastal south was settled by southern English natives who were Cavaliers supportive of the Stuart
dynasty. This society was hierarchial and based on honor and
fueled by chattel slavery.
4. the backcountry region was settled by Englishmen from the northern border region of England, Scotland and Ulster Scotch-Irish. Exemplified by such paragons of this violent and emotional culture were men like Andrew Jackson and James Knox Polk. Composed of Hoosiers and Rednecks, Crackers and doughty pioneers this society believed in individual freedom.
The almost 1000 page book is filled with illustrations, population data and election results of Presidential elections which reflect how political choices are reflected in the four major mass migrations made to America by Britishers.
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Format: Paperback
If you stand too close to anything, it disappears. This may or may not be good physics, but it is great social theory. Case in point: the WASP, the white Anglo-Saxon protest so famed in song and story. It is David Hackett Fischer's peculiar virtue to point out that there never was such a thing. Or more strictly - that the early settlers who came from the British Isles fall into not one, but at least four disparate categories. New England Puritans were not Pennsylvania Quakers who were not Midatlantic Catholics (sic). Take them all together and they were none of them the least way like the Scotch-Irish who came later and swept back into the hills, whence they spilled forth over half a Century or more to dominate our political life..
You can see it on the map, of which Fischer offers several. They came from different places. They brought different alliances and their own particular betrayals, and a range of subliminal traditions that distinguish them one from another.
One good example is relations between the sexes. The Puritans were a "patriarchic" people by 20th Century standards, but they believed that God spoke to men and women alike - so at least you had to listen to what you say. The Scotch Irish, far more close to nomadic in their way, would have none of it. Fischer shows how a Scotch-Irish wedding, however merry an occasion for all concerned, is stylistically a ritualized rape.
Fischer has hundreds of pages of this stuff, but it is perhaps the politics that is the most interesting. It wasn't the descendants of John Adams who dominated our public life (his great-grandchild, Henry Adams, wrote the great American parable of the superfluous man). It was the likes of Andrew Jackson, John Calhoun, James Polk - strapping and lean, with sunken cheekbones, often violent.
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