American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America

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 and how these differences have played a pivotal role at every point in the continent’s history, from the American Revolution and the Civil War to the “blue county/red county” maps of recent presidential elections. A revolutionary and revelatory take on how America’s myriad have shaped our past and are molding our future.

Now includes an Epilogue bringing the story up into our present, Trump-inflected age.

“The most informative book about the fix we are in”

– Jane Smiley, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, in the Irish Times.


“Fascinating . . . Engrossing . . . 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

“[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.”

The Daily Beast

“[C]ompelling and informative.”

The Washington Post

“Mr. Woodard’s approach is breezier than [David Hackett] Fischer’s and more historical than [Joel] Garreau’s, but he has earned a place on the shelf between them.”

The Wall Street Journal

“[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

“Provocative reading.”

News and Observer

“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

“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

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

St. Louis Post-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

“Woodard persuasively argues that since the founding of the United States, eleven distinct geographical ‘nations’ have formed within the Union, each with its own identity and set of values.”

Military History Quarterly

“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.”

“One of the most original books I read in the last year. . . . 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 Prime Minister of Ireland

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

Kirkus (starred review)

“[American Nations’] compelling explanations and apt descriptions will fascinate anyone with an interest in politics, regional culture, or history”

Publishers Weekly (Starred review)

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

Library Journal

Winner, Maine Literary Award for Non-Fiction