Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (America: a cultural history)
David Hackett Fischer
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.
shared by other travelers. There was a strong sense of insecurity in this sparsely settled land. Isolated houses were attacked and robbed by roving nocturnal bands, and sometimes all the victims were brutally murdered to hide the crime.1 As late as the year 1680 a Yorkshire diarist recorded one such event, when a gentleman of that county, together with his mother and servants, was robbed and killed, and the house set ablaze to hide the crime: “The old gentlewoman was most burnt,” the diarist
away. Quakers had no need for pulpits and altars, but often there was a raised platform called the “stand” where the elders sat in a place of special honor. Everyone else took a seat on the simple benches, men on one side and women on the other. There was no assigned seating as in Anglican and Puritan churches. A gallery called the loft was reserved for children and youths. Other furnishings included a sliding partition which separated men and women during their business meetings, and a cabinet
whether a colleague would continue as rector of a parish. Established clergymen such as Williamson were regarded as corrupt and alien presences on the borders. That prejudice was carried to the backcountry where Anglican missionaries met with much hostility, not only from Scots and Scots-Irish, but from English settlers as well.5 There was, however, no hostility to learned and pious ministers of acceptable opinions. Presbyterian settlers sent home to Scotland and Northern Ireland for their own
neo-Freudian narcissists or prototypical professors of English literature. They were a people of their time and place who had an exceptionally strong sense of themselves, and a soaring spiritual purpose which has been lost beneath many layers of revisionist scholarship. The first gentlemen of Virginia were truly cavaliers. They were not the pasteboard protagonists of Victorian fiction, or the celluloid heroes of Gone with the Wind. But neither were they self-made bourgeois capitalists, modern
“Concord,” 89; Linzner, “Brookline,” 24; Nancy Osterud and John Fulton, “Family Limitation and Age at Marriage: Fertility Decline in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, 1730-1850,” PS 30 (1976), 481-94; Susan Norton, “Population Growth in Colonial America: A Study of Ipswich, Mass.,” PS 25 (1971), 445; Patricia O’Malley, “‘Beloved Wife’ and ‘Inveigled Affections’: Marriage Patterns in Early Rowley, Massachusetts,” in Robert M. Taylor and Ralph J. Crandall, eds., Generations and Change (Macon, Ga., 1986),