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Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America

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From Library Journal

This cultural history explains the European settlement of the United States as voluntary migrations from four English cultural centers. Families of zealous, literate Puritan yeomen and artisans from urbanized East Anglia established a religious community in Massachusetts (1629-40); royalist cavaliers headed by Sir William Berkeley and young, male indentured servants from the south and west of England built a highly stratified agrarian way of life in Virginia (1640-70); egalitarian Quakers of modest social standing from the North Midlands resettled in the Delaware Valley and promoted a social pluralism (1675-1715); and, in by far the largest migration (1717-75), poor borderland families of English, Scots, and Irish fled a violent environment to seek a better life in a similarly uncertain American backcountry. These four cultures, reflected in regional patterns of language, architecture, literacy, dress, sport, social structure, religious beliefs, and familial ways, persisted in the American settlements. The final chapter shows the significance of these regional cultures for American history up to the present. Insightful, fresh, interesting, and well-written, this synthesis of traditional and more current historical scholarship provides a model for interpretations of the American character. Subsequent volumes of this promised multivolume work will be eagerly awaited. Highly recommended for the general reader and the scholar.
- David Szatmary, Univ. of Washington, Seattle. Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Four Themes in Anglo-American Culture, August 20, 2005 By Leonard J. Wilson (VA United States)

This review is from: Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (America: a Cultural History) (Paperback)

Albion's Seed by Brandeis University History Professor David Hackett Fischer is the history of the four main regional migrations from Britain to North America in the 17th and 18th centuries. Professor Fischer examines each of these four migrations in great detail, describing the origin, motivations, religion, timing, and numerous cultural attitudes or folkways for dealing with everyday life, including birth, child rearing, marriage, age, death, order, speech, architecture, dress, food, wealth, and time, to cite only a few. He devotes special attention to the different concepts of liberty and freedom held by each of these four British cultural groups.

The first major wave consisted predominantly of the Puritans from East Anglia who settled in New England between 1629 and 1640, the years immediately preceding the English Civil War in which Oliver Cromwell and the Puritan army defeated and beheaded King Charles I.

The second wave consisted of defeated (or soon to be defeated) supporters of the king and the Established (Anglican) Church of England, primarily from the south and west of England, who settled in the Chesapeake Bay regions of Virginia and Maryland between 1642 and 1675.

The third wave was the migration of Quakers from the English midlands (and their religious kin from various German sects) who settled in the Delaware Valley (southeast Pennsylvania, west New Jersey, north Delaware) between 1675 and 1715.

Finally, the "Scotch-Irish", referring collectively to immigrants from the north of England, lowland Scotland, and Ulster, settled the Appalachian backcountry from Pennsylvania southwest through Virginia, the Carolinas, and into Tennessee and Kentucky from 1717 to 1775. Less homogenous in religion than the prior waves, the Scotch-Irish were a mixture of Presbyterians, the dominant group, and Anglicans, a significant minority.

Each of these four folk established an amazingly enduring culture in their region, a culture that successfully incorporated later immigrants from other origins who shared little or none of the dominant folkway that had become established in their new home. Their contrasting concepts of liberty are among the most visible today. The Puritan concept of liberty, "ordered liberty" in Fischer's terminology, focused on the "freedom" to conform to the policies of the Puritan Church and local government. The Virginia concept of liberty, "hegemonic liberty", was hierarchical in nature, ranging from the great freedom of those in positions of power and wealth down to the total lack of freedom accorded to slaves. The Quaker concept of liberty, "reciprocal liberty", focused on the aspects of freedom that were held equally by all people as opposed to the unequal and asymmetric freedoms of the Puritans and Virginians. Finally, the Scotch-Irish concept of liberty, "natural liberty", focused on the natural rights of the individual and his freedom from government coercion.

The Four (4) Great Migrations

The Puritans

East Anglia to Massachusetts

The Exodus of the English Puritans

Gentlemen Cavaliers and Indentured Servants

The South and West of England to Virginia

Distressed Cavaliers and Indentured Servants


North Midlands to the Delaware

The Friends' Migration

Backcountry Borderers

Borderlands to the Backcountry

The Flight from Middle Britain and Northern Ireland


  • Ports of Departures
  • Ships
  • Genealogical Sources