Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (America: a cultural history)
David Hackett Fischer
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This fascinating book is the first volume in a projected 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 origins.
While most people in the United States today have no British ancestors, they have assimilated regional cultures which were created by British colonists, even while preserving ethnic identities at the same time. In this sense, nearly all Americans are "Albion's Seed," no matter what their ethnicity may be. The concluding section of this remarkable book explores the ways that regional cultures have continued to dominate national politics from 1789 to 1988, and still help to shape attitudes toward education, government, gender, and violence, on which differences between American regions are greater than between European nations.
infant nephew “struts around the house and is as noisy as a bully.” The same man expressed delight at the antics of his own two-year-old son, Tom Junior. A sister-in-law complained that little Tom’s wild behavior in the house was “enough to distract all about him except his papa, and to him I believe all his [son’s] noise is music. If he can’t have and do everything he has a mind to, he is ready to tear the house the down.”4 For boys, this regime of parental permissiveness commonly continued
received from frustrated fathers and mothers who found themselves equally incapable of controlling their children or restraining their own parental rage. These autobiographers also recalled their feelings of anger against what seemed to be parental tyranny. The result was a highly volatile process of child rearing: extremely permissive most of the time, but punctuated by acts of angry and illegitimate violence. This problem of promiscuous violence in child rearing was compounded by alcohol. The
Egil Harald Grade, The North Sea: A Highway of Economic and Cultural Exchange; Character—History (Stavanger, Norway, 1985), 9-26, 151-66. 8 For graphic details of the Dutch presence in East Anglia, see Thomas William Bramston, Autobiography (London, 1845), 108; for East Anglian Puritans in the Netherlands, see Raymond P. Stearns, Congregationalism in the Dutch Netherlands: The Rise and Fall of the English Congregational Classis, 1621-1635 (Chicago, 1940). 9 Arthur Gray, “Massacre at the Bra
“misspending their time.”2 The Puritan magistrate Samuel Sewall was infuriated by the wasting of time, and still more by its profanation. When he observed two men playing “idle tricks” on April Fools’ Day he angrily upbraided them: In the morning I dehorted Sam. Hirst and Grindal Rawson from playing Idle Tricks because ‘twas the first of April. They were the greatest fools that did so. New England men came hither to avoid anniversary days, the keeping of them, such as the 25th of December. How
Nearly all were British Protestants. Most lived under British laws and took pride in possessing British liberties. At the same time, they also differed from one another in many other ways: in their religious denominations, social ranks, historical generations, and also in the British regions from whence they came. They carried across the Atlantic four different sets of British folkways which became the basis of regional cultures in the New World. By the year 1775 these four cultures were fully