From my new book review in Taki’s Magazine:
June 15, 2022
At age 86, David Hackett Fischer, author of the landmark 1989 book Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (which is perhaps the most influential work of American history in the last third of a century), has returned to try to apply his magnum opus’ method to African Americans in African Founders: How Enslaved People Expanded American Ideals.
In Albion’s Seed, Fischer offered a framework for how to think about the first three centuries of American history. Most early migrants to the United States from the island shared by England, Wales, and Scotland, which ancient Greek geographers called “Albion,” can be divided into four groups:
In the first half of the 17th century, about 20,000 Puritans moved to New England to found a progressive utopia where everything not forbidden was mandatory. From there they spread out across the northern latitudes of the United States, with Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco as the ultimate post-Puritan progressive outposts.
In the middle of the 17th century, while the leftist Puritans were temporarily on top in English politics, rightist Cavaliers migrated from England to Virginia to more or less reproduce the English class structure in their own conservative utopia. Moving out from the Chesapeake Bay, their descendants populated the lowland South.
In the late 17th century, William Penn set up Pennsylvania as a moderate utopia for his fellow Quakers, and invited Continental Europeans of similar religious values. From there they dispersed across the upper middle latitudes of the United States, with Southern California as the eventual end of the line for the Midlanders.
Finally, from 1715 to 1775, the Scots-Irish from the violent border region of England and Scotland, often with a stop in Northern Ireland, headed for the American frontier. They preferred healthy if hardscrabble highlands like the Appalachians and Ozarks to the richer but more fever-ridden lowlands. They established an ornery utopia of minimal government, from which, once your neighbors started to get on your nerves, you’d light out for the latest frontier. …
In his new book African Founders, Fischer attempts to apply his famous Albion’s Seed methodology to African Americans by tracking the black populations of different American colonies back to their African tribal homelands.
This is an exciting ambition because Americans, white and black, tend to think of blacks as a largely homogeneous people with no history before 1619.
Read the whole thing there.