The US is one country divided into 50 states, but it may also be a country comprised of several tribes or factions.
That’s according to award-winning author Colin Woodard, who writes in his book “American Nations,” that there are 11 distinct cultures that have historically divided North America.
“The country has been arguing about a lot of fundamental things lately including state roles and individual liberty,” Woodard told Business Insider in a past interview. “[But] in order to have any productive conversation on these issues,” he added, “you need to know where you come from.”
The country’s divisions across political beliefs, rather than geographic location, can be seen in how the country is tackling the coronavirus pandemic. Absent of a federal plan for all the states, governors have been partnering up, often in tandem with these 11 factions, to create plans for battling the crisis. For example, the governors of California, Washington and Oregon — all of which have parts of what Woodward calls “The Left Coast” — have formed a coalition. States like New York and Connecticut, which are both part of the nation called “Yankeedom,” are working together, too.
Here’s Woodard’s historical take on each nation:
Matthew Speiser contributed to a previous version of this article.
Yankeedom values education, and members are comfortable with government regulation.
Encompassing the entire Northeast north of New York City and spreading through Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, Yankeedom values education, intellectual achievement, communal empowerment, and citizen participation in government as a shield against tyranny. Yankees are comfortable with government regulation. Woodard notes that Yankees have a “Utopian streak.” The area was settled by radical Calvinists.
New Netherland in the New York area has a “materialistic” culture.
A highly commercial culture, New Netherland is “materialistic, with a profound tolerance for ethnic and religious diversity and an unflinching commitment to the freedom of inquiry and conscience,” according to Woodard. It is a natural ally with Yankeedom and encompasses New York City and northern New Jersey. The area was settled by the Dutch.
The Midlands, largely located in the Midwest, opposes government regulation.
Settled by English Quakers, The Midlands are a welcoming middle-class society that spawned the culture of the “American Heartland.” Political opinion is moderate, and government regulation is frowned upon. Woodard calls the ethnically diverse Midlands “America’s great swing region.” Within the Midlands are parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska.
Tidewater started as a feudal society that embraced slavery.
Tidewater was built by the young English gentry in the area around the Chesapeake Bay and North Carolina. Starting as a feudal society that embraced slavery, the region places a high value on respect for authority and tradition. Woodard notes that Tidewater is in decline, partly because “it has been eaten away by the expanding federal halos around DC and Norfolk.”
Greater Appalachia encompasses parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Texas.
Colonized by settlers from the war-ravaged borderlands of Northern Ireland, northern England, and the Scottish lowlands, Greater Appalachia is stereotyped as the land of hillbillies and rednecks. Woodard says Appalachia values personal sovereignty and individual liberty and is “intensely suspicious of lowland aristocrats and Yankee social engineers alike.” It sides with the Deep South to counter the influence of federal government. Within Greater Appalachia are parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Indiana, Illinois, and Texas.