American Nations

American Nations

A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America

Written by:

Additional Formats
  • Ebook
  • ISBN 9781101544457
  • 384 Pages
  • Penguin Books
  • Adult


An illuminating history of North America’s eleven rival cultural regions that explodes the red state-blue state myth.

North America was settled by people with distinct religious, political, and ethnographic characteristics, creating regional cultures that have been at odds with one another ever since. Subsequent immigrants didn’t confront or assimilate into an “American” or “Canadian” culture, but rather into one of the eleven distinct regional ones that spread over the continent each staking out mutually exclusive territory.

In American Nations, Colin Woodard leads us on a journey through the history of our fractured continent, and the rivalries and alliances between its component nations, which conform to neither state nor international boundaries. He illustrates and explains why “American” values vary sharply from one region to another. Woodard (author of American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good)  reveals how intranational differences have played a pivotal role at every point in the continent’s history, from the American Revolution and the Civil War to the tumultuous sixties and the “blue county/red county” maps of recent presidential elections. American Nations is a revolutionary and revelatory take on America’s myriad identities and how the conflicts between them have shaped our past and are molding our future.

From the Hardcover edition.


Winner of the 2012 Maine Literary Award for Non-fiction

“Mr. Woodard’s approach is breezier than Mr. Fischer’s and more historical than Mr. Garreau’s, but he has earned a place on the shelf between them." — The Wall Street Journal

“[C]ompelling and informative.” — The Washington Post

“[A] fascinating new ethnographic history of North America.”
Alec MacGillis, The New Republic

“Provocative reading.” — News and Observer

“[American Nations] sets itself apart by delving deep into history to trace our current divides to ethno-cultural differences that emerged during the country’s earliest settlement.” — The New Republic, Editors’ Picks: Best Books of 2011

“Fascinating…Engrossing…In the end…[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

“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

“Woodard offers a fascinating way to parse American (writ large) politics and history in this excellent book.” — Kirkus (starred review)

“Colin Woodard debunks the simplistic notion of Left Coast, red state, blues state and other broad-brush efforts to peg America’s differences.…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 book’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

“Provocative.” — Publishers Weekly

“[W]ell-researched analysis with appeal to both casual and scholarly readers.” — Library Journal

“Colin Woodard offers up an illuminating history of North America that explodes the red state-blue state myth.…Woodard’s American Nations is a revolutionary and revelatory take on America’s myriad identities, and how the conflicts between them have shaped our country’s past and mold its future.” —

“[F]or people interested in American history and sociology, American Nations demands reading.…American Nations is important reading.” — St. Louis Dispatch

“[I]f you want to better understand U.S. politics, history, and culture American Nations is to be required reading.…By revealing this continent of rivals, American Nations will revolutionize the way Americans think about their past, their country, and themselves and is sure to spark controversy.” — The Herald Gazette

American Nations by journalist-historian Colin Woodard is a superb book. Woodard makes a compelling argument that the United Sates was founded by contradictory regional convictions that continue to influence current attitudes and policy on a national level.…American Nations smashes the idea of political borders.…There is much to grapple with in this well-written book.” — The Portland Press Herald