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The author of American Nations returns to the historical study of a fractured America by examining how a myth of national unity was created and fought over in the nineteenth century--a myth that continues to affect us today
Union tells the story of the struggle to create a national myth for the United States, one that could hold its rival regional cultures together and forge, for the first time, an American nationhood. It tells the dramatic tale of how the story of our national origins, identity, and purpose was intentionally created and fought over in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. On one hand, a small group of individuals--historians, political leaders, and novelists--fashioned and promoted a history that attempted to transcend and erase the fundamental differences and profound tensions between the nation's regional cultures. America had a God-given mission to lead humanity toward freedom, equality, and self-government and was held together by fealty to these ideals.
This emerging nationalist story was immediately and powerfully contested by another set of intellectuals and firebrands who argued that the United States was instead an ethno-state, the homeland of the allegedly superior "Anglo-Saxon" race, upon whom Divine and Darwinian favor shined. Their vision helped create a new federation--the Confederacy--prompting the bloody Civil War. While defeated on the battlefield, their vision later managed to win the war of ideas, capturing the White House in the early twentieth century, and achieving the first consensus, pan-regional vision of U.S. nationhood in the years before the outbreak of the first World War. This narrower, more exclusive vision of America would be overthrown in mid-century, but it was never fully vanquished. Woodard tells the story of the genesis and epic confrontations between these visions of our nation's path and purpose through the lives of the key figures who created them, a cast of characters whose personal quirks and virtues, gifts and demons shaped the destiny of millions.
About the Author
Colin Woodard is a New York Times bestselling writer-historian, and journalist who has reported from more than fifty foreign countries and six continents. A longtime foreign correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor and The San Francisco Chronicle, he is a reporter at the Portland Press Herald, where he received a 2012 George Polk Award and was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, Smithsonian, and Politico. He is the author of American Nations, American Character, The Lobster Coast, The Republic of Pirates, and Ocean's End and lives in Maine.
Praise for Union
"Ambitious and accessible. . . . This enlightening and character-driven account will resonate with progressive history buffs."
Praise for American Nations
2012 Maine Literary Award for Non-fiction
The New Republic Best Books of 2011
The Globalist Best Books of 2011
“Mr. Woodard’s approach is breezier than Mr. Fischer’s and more historical than Mr. Garreau’s, but [Woodard] has earned a place on the shelf between them."
—The Wall Street Journal
“Compelling and informative.”
—The Washington Post
“One of the most original books I read in the last year was American Nations. . . . During my five years as an ambassador in the United States, I spent a lot of time studying the voting patterns of different states and reading American history, and I have to say I find Woodard’s thesis to be fully borne out by my own observations.”
—John Bruton, former European Union ambassador to the United States
“Incredible perspective on North and Central America.”
—Jack Dorsey, founder and CEO, Twitter
"A eye opening experience for me. . . . Many Americans say they love their country. The question is -- which country are they talking about.”
—Chai Feldblum, former commissioner, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
“In a compelling mash-up of the contemporary political geography of authors like Joel Garreau and Dante Chinni with the ethnography and history of David Hackett Finscher (Albion’s Seed), [Colin] Woodard divides North America into eleven distinct “nations." . . . [A] fascinating new ethnographic history of North America.”
—Alec MacGillis, The New Republic
“American Nations pulls off the unlikely feat of both offering the tools for just such a broader, deeper understanding—and demonstrates why, in a larger sense, that effort is doomed….The key to the [American Nations]’s effectiveness is Woodard’s skill—and irreverence—in delving into history with no qualms about being both brisk and contrarian….[I]n offering us a way to better understand the forces at play in the rumpus room of current American politics, Colin Woodard has scored a true triumph. I am going to order copies for my father and sister immediately—and I hope Woodard gets a wide hearing for his fascinating study.”
—The Daily Beast
“[Colin] Woodard offers a fascinating way to parse American (writ large) politics and history in this excellent book.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“In American Nations, [Colin Woodard] persuasively reshapes our understanding of how the American political entity came to be. . . . [A] fascinating new take on history.”
—The Christian Science Monitor
—The News & Observer
“Well-researched analysis with appeal to both casual and scholarly readers.”
“Fascinating. . . . Engrossing. . . . In the end, though, [American Nations] is a smart read that feels particularly timely now, when so many would claim a mythically unified “Founding Fathers” as their political ancestors.”
—The Boston Globe
“Woodard persuasively argues that since the founding of the United States, 11 distinct geographical “nations” have formed within the Union, each with its own identity and set of values.”
—Military History Quarterly
"Woodard’s account of American history is a refreshing take, and one I’d recommend to those curious of what causes our cultural differences.”
“[C]ontroversial and thought-provoking. . . . This is an important sociological study.”
“[F]or people interested in American history and sociology, American Nations demands reading. . . . American Nations is important reading.”
—St. Louis Post-Dispatch