One of the most original books I read in the last year was “American Nations, a history of the eleven rival regional cultures of North America” by Colin Woodard, a journalist living in Maine.
The thesis of the book is that the first European settlers in a given part of the continent established the prevailing cultural and political norms for the area and that subsequent immigrants, even those with very different ethnic and religious backgrounds, adopted the norms of the original settlers. Although the original settlers may have arrived 400 years ago in different parts of North America, their norms can, Woodard argues, be seen in the voting patterns of different parts of North America to the present day.
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.
Among the eleven “nations” he identifies are
an internationalist one around New York city, which still has the internationalist bias of its original Dutch settlers,
a Yankee nation in New England and a northern belt going west to Chicago, which is influenced by the Puritan and statist ideas of the original settlers of New England
an Appalachian culture which is deeply suspicious of all authority in church or state
a culture of the Deep South influenced by slavery and its resultant class distinction
an Hispanic culture that straddles the US /Mexican border
Power in the United States is influenced by the shifting of the alliances between these different “nations”.
Another very interesting book I have just completed is “Lloyd George and Churchill, Rivals for Greatness” by Richard Toye.
Churchill and Lloyd George were both Ministers in the last single party Liberal Government to hold office in Britain. It held office from 1906 until it split, and was overthrown, in favour of a National Government headed by Lloyd George during the First World War
Churchill and Lloyd George were both deeply distrusted by their Ministerial colleagues, who saw both of them as too clever by half. They were, and remained, close political friends, but were rivals as well. They did not always speak well of one another in private.
Until the 1920’s, Lloyd George was the more successful of the two. He also had more innovative thinking on economics in the 1930’s. Churchill had a better understanding of the threat posed by the rise of Hitler. When Churchill became Prime Minister in 1940, he wanted to bring a then elderly Lloyd George into his Government, but the latter was pessimistic about Britain’s war prospects and did not take up the challenge.