Hey Baltimoreans, whether you realize it or not, you are living in the Midlands, a fairly large, oddly shaped nation which stretches west from the Mid-Atlantic, dips into the top of Texas, and hooks around into Canada. Apparently, you are defined by your utopian Quaker past, pluralistic values, and resentment of government intrusion.
That’s according to Colin Woodard’s intriguing new book, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America. In it Woodard argues that though the United States may be joined by a single government, it’s not a single “nation” — not in the cultural sense. Far from it.
In fact, North America can be fairly decisively divided into 11 separate nations, whose boundaries pay minimal respect to state or even national borders.
The validity of Woodard’s boundary lines are — according to him, anyway — confirmed by “the distribution of linguistic dialects, the spread of cultural artifacts, the prevalence of different religious denominations, and the county-by-county breakdown of voting in virtually every hotly contested presidential race in our history.”
Which is to say that the shared histories within these “nations,” though little considered (at least to this degree of specificity), continue to define us — and continue to fuel our contentious political debates, too!
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