[ Pdf Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America ¸ diets PDF ] by David Hackett Fischer ¸ This is the book that finally made me start becoming muchdiscerning in whose recommendations I followed for what book to read I can t count the number of others who are interested in history, family history, etc and told me that this was one of the best books about the colonial period in what became the U.
S Perhaps my issue was that I came at it from a background of anthropology and the study of religions in addition to having studied history, social history, and genealogy But I hadn t even made it a few chapters in this huge book before I was becoming impatient with the author s giant leaps from a tenuous piece of information to some sweeping conclusion, and with his incredible number of generalizations If you want history to be boiled down to the basics and stitched together with leaps of logic, then this is the book for you If you want to read about the nuanced lives lived by individual people in region specific societies look elsewhere That s what I thought I was getting based on the glowing recommendations, but this is not that book at all I simply don t understand why people love it so much.
Massive start to a general cultural history of the US Key word is folkWAYS, with a division into two dozen KINDS of WAYS brought to American by different waves of British migration Of interest to all American historians, family historians with Anglo lineage, etc.
This Book Is The First Volume In A 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 OriginsFromTo , North America Was Settled By Four Great Waves Of English Speaking Immigrants The First Was An Exodus Of Puritans From The East Of England To Massachusetts The Second Was The Movement Of A Royalist Elite And Indentured Servants From The South Of England To Virginia Ca The Third Was The Friends Migration, The Quakers From The North Midlands And Wales To The Delaware Valley Ca The Fourth Was A Great Flight From The Borderlands Of North Britain And Northern Ireland To The American Backcountry CaThese Four Groups Differed In Many Ways In Religion, Rank, Generation And Place Of Origin They Brought To America Different Folkways Which Became The Basis Of Regional Cultures In The United States They Spoke Distinctive English Dialects And Built Their Houses In Diverse Ways They Had Different Ideas Of Family, Marriage And Gender Different Practices Of Child Naming And Child Raising Different Attitudes Toward Sex, Age And Death Different Rituals Of Worship And Magic Different Forms Of Work And Play Different Customs Of Food And Dress Different Traditions Of Education And Literacy Different Modes Of Settlement And Association They Also Had Profoundly Different Ideas Of Comity, Order, Power And Freedom Which Derived From British Folk Traditions Albion S Seed Describes Those Differences In Detail, And Discusses The Continuing Importance Of Their Transference To AmericaToday Most People In The United States ThanPercent Have No British Ancestors At All These Many Other Groups, Even While Preserving Their Own Ethnic Cultures, Have Also Assimilated Regional Folkways Which Were Transplanted From Britain To America In That Sense, Nearly All Americans Today Are Albion S Seed, No Matter What Their Ethnic Origins May Be But They Are So In Their Different Regional Ways The Concluding Section Of Albion S Seed Explores The Ways That Regional Cultures Have Continued To Dominate National Politics FromTo , And Still Control Attitudes Toward Education, Government, Gender, And Violence, On Which Differences Between American Regions Are Greater Than Between European Nations Albion S Seed Also Argues That The Four British Folkways Created An Expansive Cultural Pluralism That Has Proved To The Libertarian Than Any Single Culture Alone Could Be Together They Became The Determinants Of A Voluntary Society In The United States This book is a fat, fat tome indeed It s made to be consulted not really read through a real reference work I concentrated on only two of the British groups out of the four covered extensively The Quakers North Midlands to the Delaware and the Scotch Irish Borderlands to the Backcountry The other two groups covered are East Anglia to Massachusetts and South of England to Virginia I was interested in reading about the first two particular groups, since both are part of my ethnic background Welsh Quakers and Scotch Irish There is so much information to digest and remember The title of each section tells basically from what part of England that particular group came The Quakers were mainly from the Midlands and from pretty much all over Wales, but most were concentrated in the North Many of their folkways were transplanted to this country plain dress, architecture plain and airy, but using stone, a plentiful local material , names they chose for their children, ways of raising children and attitude toward family William Penn, of whom there s an extensive biography, was very open in whom he allowed to live there so there are many Germans, Pietist in religion, who have the same peaceful ideas as Quakers The Welsh were concentrated in what was called the Welsh Tract , near Philadelphia Finally, after Penn, the Welsh were divided into two different counties so they wouldn t all be bunched into one You could call this the first gerrymandering Penn believed in what he called reciprocal liberty based on the Golden Rule and in freedom of conscience Fischer prefers the name Scots Irish or Borderers to Scotch Irish He feels that Scotch Irish is an American coinage This group came from the land bordering the Irish Sea Northern Ireland, Scotland, and English Border country In one letter the writer says we are a mix d medley Celtic, Roman, English, Scandinavian, Irish and Scottish.
They had a clan system, with the equivalent of a clan chieftain Their architecture was the log cabin, which they had built previously in the Border Country There is a section on naming children, raising them, and families.
Their religious customs were brought over from the Border Country Evangelical religion and camp meetings were adapted from Border Country practices and were not indigenously American Food included the potato, very important back home, pancakes or scones from Scandinavian, meaning crust They adapted oatmeal mush into cornmeal mush in this country There was so much corn and no oats.
Their concept of freedom was elbow room So they pushed West.
The pencil or charcoal drawings were amazing The maps were maybe TOO detailed I found a fun way to consult this book Since the index is so extensive, just look up what you want Just browse For instance I found in the Puritan section, there s a passage on ball games It traces the antecedents of baseball and gives due recognition to Abner Doubleday as having been the first to codify baseball rules The Liberty Bell was conceived of and paid for by Quakers before the Revolution They didn t mean liberty in the Revolutionary War sense of freedom from Great Britain, but Penn s reciprocal liberty An interesting section on Quaker food I found out what cream cheese originally consisted of partially dehydrated sour cream The Quakers also came up with dried beef They borrowed scrapple meat and buckwheat from the Germans Scots Irish marriage customs involuntary or voluntary abduction of the bride This custom was brought over from the Border Country Andrew Jackson s wife was voluntarily abducted A good novel on Rachel Jackson is The President s LadyThis was a fascinating peek into American history and British folkways Recommended I followed up reading Born Fightin The History of the Scots Irish by reading this book I m glad to have read both together, as this book validates the historical references in Born Fightin.
I enjoyed reading this book, but it s not for the light reader it s a historical and anthropological look at the four regions of Great Britain focus on England, but also part of Scotland and Wales and the patterns of migration from those regions to distinct parts of the now US then British colonies New England, Virginia, Pennsylvania New Jersey Delaware Maryland, and the Appalachian frontier The author is extremely thorough in laying out his historical hypothesis, the other hypotheses that are generally accepted in the historical community, and his reasons for supporting his claims He looks at 20 25 distinct folkways that each region group of people had, how those folkways affected the make up of their region in both Great Britain and the US, and the long term implications of those belief systems in US culture today.
As someone who s from the Pennsylvania, etc region of the country, it was very insightful to see how the North Midlands people who migrated there specifically the Quaker society created the cultural norms that still exist in the Delaware Valley today I found it fascinating that beliefs brought by the Puritans, Cavaliers, Quakers, and Borderers Scots Irish and Irish to New England, Virgina, the Delaware Valley, and Appalachian Frontier, respectively, still exist today it s something you can see in interactions with people native to those areas today For example, the English language dialects of the day in England that were brought between 1600 and 1750 to the US still exist in the US for example, the Boston accent, Philadelphia way of speaking, and Southern drawl I was under the impression that those dialects were the product of their growth in the US, but they actually existed in England before those people moved to the colonies It makes one wonder how other languages will change as outlying areas are separated from the core of the language Taiwanese Chinese vs Mandarin vs Cantonese come to mind as an example.
Overall, I would recommend this book to the historical anthropological minded person that wants to understand our current political mindsets in various regions of the country in historical context It s amazing how cultural norms from 17th century England continue to permeate our culture and cause friction in our political system something that is not new according to the author and his high level lookback through political history in the US.
Great book about how diverse England actually was during the colonial period, despite being a relatively small island.
My father s family was entirely Yankee, and members of the Congregational Church descendants of the Puritans, before it became liberal Reading about the Puritan Migration, I was constantly surprised by what I had not known about my own culture, and found no dissonance with what I did know.
I m on the 4th and last Folkway migration now the Border people of England and Scotland While they settled in many places, the US culture at large rightly identifies this immigrants as living in Appalachia Fischer, an eminent historian, shows that what we identify as Appalachian culture in fact is 90% Border Provinces culture And, as with all 4 folkways, he shows how this culture developed in its original location as an adaptive result to conditions existing there.
This book is a tour de force, debunking commonly held truths For example, Field Meetings for churches were not an invention of our Mid west They were very popular in the Border Provinces as well they had to be, since a they were of religions proscribed by the Government and b for 700 years they were overrun by invasions, and churches were typically chosen as targets to burn down.
The overall perspective, which is humbling, is to show us that a lot of what we are committed to is in fact the result of conditions that existed hundreds of years ago For example, the Quakers, of the 4 immigrations, were the only group that believed in Freedom for all the author repeated that on an NPR interview for the 4th of July for this year Why Because they had been persecuted from both sides i.
, the Anglicans and the Cromwellian Puritans and because many of them came from the really poor areas of northern England where those escaping persecution often fled, and so a culture of mutual tolerance and forbearance had developed.
This is a long book Not long enough I don t want it to end enjoy,Hank Fischer studies the evolution of institutions in the US and documents how cultural beliefs brought by the four migration waves of the original settlers generated stark differences in laws Specifically Puritans to Massachusetts from East Anglia migrated for religious reasons and valued education and order, which led to laws promoting education, high tax rates, government intervention and justice Virginia Cavaliers to Chesapeake Bay from South of England for younger son syndrome lived where inequality was natural, which led to low taxes, low government spending, informal system of justice and little emphasis on education Quakers to Delaware Valley from England s North Midlands were from lower middle classes and valued personal freedom, which led to equal rights and little government intervention Scottish Irish moved primarily for material reasons and valued natural liberty i.
e freedom from any constraint, which led to minimal government intervention and limited justice system

It s an odd feeling to read a history of the main regional groupings of colonial America and see the place you grew up left out, particularly odd when that place is one of the biggest metropolitan areas in the US Where s New York How does New York fit into this scheme I kept asking The answer became clear in the conclusion Fischer had left New York City out upstate New York he sees as fitting in culturally with New England because it was, during colonial times, basically a growth from New Amsterdam, a cityDutch than English in culture And this book is the story of England s contribution to American culture, and the ways in which the different regional cultures of the UK influenced the different regional cultures of the US This isn t, I realized as I read the book, actually my usual mental focus, as a New York raised daughter of a Greek immigrant I tend to thinkoften about the Ellis Island experience, for all that I learned in school about colonial days But I did find that his account explained some things that had puzzled me.
The choice gives a particular slant to Fischer s history He emphasizes the ways in which existing culture shapes the economic choices of a region over the ways in which the means of production shape culture no Marxist analysis here, where everything else would be superstructure to the economic base He emphasizes the regional cultures brought to the New World over the ways in which the New World shaped these cultures the ways in which Southern culture was predisposed to choose slaverythan the ways in which slavery changed Southern cavalier culture, the ways in which the borderland peoples chose a particular adaption to the frontierthan the ways in which the frontier changed borderland peoples, the ways in which non Anglo Americans adapted to existing regional cultures JFK and Dukakis becoming New England Yankees and Barry Goldwater a representative of the borderland Scots Irish culturethan the ways in which immigrants shifted American culture If the short history at the end of the book about how the four cultures have been reflected in the Presidency were carried forward till the present, Barack Obama might appear as a representative of the middle America background of his Kansas born mother.
So does the book, as one skeptical friend wondered, attempt one single explanation of American history I would say not Fischer acknowledges the things he s leaving out though in one case, when discussing Reconstruction, I think he allows too little for how that history might have been altered if ex slaves had actually gotten those 40 acres and a mule , even as he chooses not to dwell on them He isn t, after all, saying that American history can be reduced to the history of those four regional British cultures Rather, he is saying that these four regional British cultures have had, and still have, a strong influence on our country And for that, he makes a good case.
The strength of the book is in the description of all four cultures, and the ways in which all four are tied back to regions in England and Scotland and northern Ireland in the case of the border people , class relations and historical events at the time of immigration.
In his account, I see explanations for genealogical, cultural, and political things, such as 1 Why does every single line on my grandfather s father s family tree seem to go back to some ship arriving in New England from England sometime in the 1630s It turns out it s because that s simply what New England was like, before the Irish potato famine immigration It s the earliest of his four waves of immigration there were very early settlers in Virginia, but their big wave came a little later , and everyone showed up not long after 1630.
2 Cahn s and Carbone s red and blue families These turn out to look very much like New England families vs Scots Irish families, if you simply add birth control to New England families and weaken the power of the shotgun marriage in Scots Irish families New England families, if Fischer s account is right, always married later andeducated, while Scots Irish families married younger andoften following a pregnancy.
3 Fischer describes sharp differences in the Gini coefficient of different parts of the country leading to differences in what tax money went for New England, which strove for equality both by bringing in mostly middle class immigrants rather than rich or poor ones and by evenly distributing land, wound up with taxes going mostly for shared public goods like schools, while the South, the land of second sons of aristocrats and poor indentured servants until it became also the part of the country with slaves had a muchuneven distribution of wealth and therefore a larger portion of tax money going to the very poor As I read that, it made sense that New England would wind uptax friendly.
The cultures that are most familiar to me Quaker and New England cultures seemed well described, and the Southern cultures were madeexplicable On the whole a good book.
The four folkways looked at are Puritan New England, Quaker Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the Scots Irish who went everywhere.
To my mind the best section is that on the Puritans, but the entire book is interesting.
Highly recommended.