American Nations by Colin Woodard :: The Atlantic World in the Age of Exploration :: Colonial American History Reading Group

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The Atlantic World In the Age of Exploration Reading Group

We are a friendly and respectful group interested in reading significant books about the Atlantic World during the age of American exploration, c.1500-1800. The focus is mainly on understanding the Atlantic World that British America and the United States developed in.

Our Weekly readings will be posted to our Colonial American History Reading Group Page.

Our Current Book and Reading Schedule

Complete Reading Schedule for our current book

Introduction | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5

  • Week 1 :: American Nations by Colin Woodard : Introduction

    Thought Questions
    - How does the author use concepts from Cultural geographers to explore history?
    - What is the main thesis of the book?
    - What geography does the book cover and exclude? Why does the author make this choice?
    - What are the eleven regions outlined in the Introduction and what are their characteristics and non-American origins
    - How does the author organize the main body of his book?

    Response / Thought Quotes
    - "America’s most essential and abiding divisions are not between red states and blue states, conservatives and liberals, capital and labor, blacks and whites, the faithful and the secular. Rather, our divisions stem from this fact: the United States is a federation comprised of the whole or part of eleven regional nations, some of which truly do not see eye to eye with one another."
    - "I’ve also intentionally chosen not to discuss several other nations that influence the continent but whose core territories lie outside what is now the United States and Canada. Cuban-dominated South Florida is the financial and transportation hub of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. Hawaii is part of the greater Polynesian cultural nation and was once a nation-state of its own. Central Mexico and Central America are, of course, part of the North American continent and include perhaps a halfdozen distinct nations—Hispano-Aztec, Greater Mayan, Anglo-Creole, and so on. There are even scholars who make persuasive arguments that African American culture constitutes the periphery of a larger Creole nation with its core in Haiti and a domain extending over much of the Caribbean basin and on to Brazil. These regional cultures are certainly worthy of exploration, but as a practical matter, a line needed to be drawn somewhere."
  • Week 2 :: American Nations by Colin Woodard : Chapter 1: Founding El Norte

    Thought Questions
    - What is the general geographic region and characteristics of El Norte?
    - Who were the Native Americans of El Norte?
    - Who were the European settlers that founded El Norte?
    - How did Spanish settlement spread in North America?
    - How was the Catholic faith central in the Spanish settlement of El Norte?
    - In what ways does El Norte impact other American nations?

    Response / Thought Quotes
    - "This virulent anti-Spanish feeling became deeply ingrained in the cultures of Yankeedom, Appalachia, Tidewater, and the Deep South."
    - "As a result, Spain’s colonies in El Norte—especially Nuevo México, Texas, Alta California, and northern Sonora—were undermanned, poorly supplied, and staggeringly poor, even by Spanish colonial standards."
    - "Between 1598 and 1794 the Spanish established at least eighteen missions in what is now the state of New Mexico, twenty-six in what is now Texas, eight in Arizona, and twenty-one in Alta California—in the process founding what have since become the cities of Tucson, San Antonio, San Diego, and San Francisco."
  • Week 3 :: American Nations by Colin Woodard : Chapter 2: New France

    Thought Questions
    - How did the initial colonization of Acadia proceed?
    - Compare and Contrast the expectations of Colonialists and settlers in early New France to those of el Norte New Spain
    - Compare and Contrast the goals of Colonialists and settlers in early New France to those of el Norte New Spain
    - Compare and Contrast the methods of Colonialists and settlers in early New France to those of el Norte New Spain
    - Compare and Contrast the how the expectations, goals and methods of Colonialists and settlers impacted Native Americans in early New France and el Norte New Spain
    - Who were the Native American and French leaders of early New France?
    - What role did religion play in early New France and how does it compare to religion in el Norte New Spain?
    - How was gender balance achieved in New France?
    - How was the process of assimilation important in New France?
    - How does the author address the issue of the balance of power between Native Americans and Europeans in New Spain and New France?

    Response / Thought Quotes
    - "By contrast, the gentlemen treated the Indians as equals, inviting them to their feasts and plays. “They sat at table, eating and drinking like ourselves,” Champlain wrote of their chiefs. “And we were glad to see them while, on the contrary, their absence saddened us, as happened three or four times when they all went away to the places wherein they knew that there was hunting.” The French, in turn, were invited to Mi’kmaq festivals, which featured speeches, smoking, and dance, social customs Champlain and his colleagues were quick to adopt."

    - Map of Acadia
    - Brief Biography: Charles de Menou d'Aulnay (c. 1604–1650)
    - Brief Biography: Françoise-Marie Jacquelin
    - Brief Biograpphy: Samuel de Champlain
  • Week 4 :: American Nations by Colin Woodard : Chapter 3: Tidewater

    Note: There is an unfortunate (but not substantive in this context) error in the beginning to the chapter. Captain Christopher Newport arrived with settlers, not John Smith who had arrived already with the first settlers. Smith had become the effective leader (but not President of the Council) of Jamestown when Bartholomew Gosnold fell sick and died 22 August 1607

    Thought Questions
    - Compare and Contrast the Tidewater settlement by the English with what happened in New France and El Norte
    - What role did the experience of Irish colonization and subjugation play in the Tidewater colonization?
    - What two events changed the trajectory of Tidewater society?
    - How and along what lines did Tidewater society become stratified?
    - Compare and Contrast the forced labor systems and the methods of coercion in the Tidewater for Europeans, Native Americans and Africans
    - Compare and Contrast the development of Maryland with Virginia
    - What vision did the white planter class have for Virginia and Maryland society?
    - What vision did the white laboring class have for Virginia and Maryland society?
    - Compare and Contrast the relationships that existed between the white laboring class and the enslaved black class with the relationship between the white laboring class and Native Americans in Yankeedom
    - How did such a tyrannical society produce some of the greatest champions of republicanism, such as Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and James Madison?
    - How was "independence" and "liberty" defined in the Tidewater and how did this definition impact different classes within Tidewater society?

    - Early Jamestown Settlement
    - Brief Biography: Bartholomew Gosnold
    - Brief Biography: John Smith
    - Brief Biography: Thomas Dale
    - Brief Biography: Thomas Gates
    - Brief Biography: Thomas West, Baron De La Warr
    - Article: Lawes Divine, Morall and Martiall

    Primary Sources
    - A True Relation of Such Occurrences ... by John Smith
    - Lawes Divine, Morall and Martiall - The Library of Congress
  • Week 5 :: American Nations by Colin Woodard : Chapter 4: Founding Yankeedom

    Response / Thought Quotes
    - “These men possessed, in proportion to their number, a greater mass of intelligence than is to be found in any European nation of our own time,” the French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville wrote of early New England in 1835. “All, perhaps without exception, had received a good education and many of them were well known in Europe for their talents and achievements.”
    - "Here were the kernels of the twin political ideologies of America’s imperial age: American Exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny."

    Thought Questions
    - Who were the founders of "Yankeedom"?
    - Compare and Contrast the founders of Yankeedom with those of Tidewater
    - Compare and Contrast the settlers of Yankeedom with those of Tidewater
    - How did the role of religious faith impact Yankeedom and how was it different from Tidewater?
    - In what ways was Yankeedom influenced by millenarian and utopia?
    - In what sense did Yankeedom become a seed bed for Manifest Destiny and American Exceptionalism?
    - In what ways did the founders of Yankeedom see themselves as a "chosen people" or "covenant people"?
    - How did ideas of collective responsibility and communal accountability impact Yankeedom?
    - Compare and Contrast the East Anglians and the West Country Gentlemen
    - How did the English Civil War impact Yankeedom?

    Primary Sources
    - Mayflower Compact; November 11, 1620
    - English Bill of Rights, 1689
    - The Act of Surrender of the Great Charter of New England to His Majesty : June 7, 1635

    - Agreement of the Settlers at Exeter in New Hampshire, August 4, 1639
    - Charter of Massachusetts Bay : March 4, 1629
    - Charter of the Colony of New Plymouth Granted to William Bradford and Associates (1629)
    Fundamental Agreement, or Original Constitution of the Colony of New Haven, June 4, 1639
    Government of New Haven Colony; October 27-November 6, 1643
    - Charter of Connecticut - April 23, 1662
    - Grant of Hampshire to Capt. John Mason, 1629
    -Grant of Land North of the Saco River to Thomas Lewis and Richard Bonighton by the Council for New England; February 12, 1629
    - William Bradford, &c. Surrender of the Patent of Plymouth Colony to the Freeman, March 2D, 1640
    - The Journal of John Winthrop
    - Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford

    Artcles and Resources
    - Brief Biography: John Winthrop
    - Brief Biography: William Bradford
    - Brief Biography: William Brewster
    - Brief Biography: Anne Hutchinson
  • Week 6 :: American Nations by Colin Woodard
    Chapter 5: Founding New Netherland

    Response / Thought Quotes
    - "In 1654, a boatload of penniless Jewish war refugees from the Dutch colony of Brazil was met with hostility from the anti-Semitic governor, Peter Stuyvesant, who called them a “deceitful race” and tried to cast them from the colony."
    - "When Stuyvesant tried to limit Quaker immigration (“this new unheard of, abominable heresy”), the people of Flushing protested, writing that “the law of love, peace and liberty in the states extends to Jews, Turks [i.e., Muslims] and Egyptians [Gypsies], which is the glory of the outward state of Holland.”"
    - “not force people’s consciences but allow every one to have his own belief, as long as he behaves quietly and legally, gives no offense to his neighbors, and does not oppose the government.”
    - "Offending the five tribes of the Iroquois nation would have been not only suicidal but also bad for business"

    Thought Questions
    - In what ways is the Dutch influence largely the "reason New York is New York"?
    - What is the difference between the Netherlands and Holland?
    - Why was Holland a center for refugee émigré intellectuals and religious dissenters?
    - Describe the Dutch community at Leiden
    - What reasons did the Dutch have for founding New Netherland and how did this impact the character of the colony?
    - Compare and Contrast the tolerance and freedom found in the New Netherland colony with the form of government found in the colony
    - How did self-interest and enlightened thinking impact the government of New Netherland?
    - Explain and Expand: "The Dutch trait of tolerance was just that. They didn’t celebrate diversity but tolerated"
    - Describe the Dutch West India Company.
    - What role did the slave trade play in Dutch colonialism?
    - How did New Amsterdam's European relations unique among the American colonies?
    - How was the colony of New York created?
    - Who was James the Duke of York? How did the accession of James II impact Colonial America?

    Primary Sources
    - Charter of the Dutch West India Company : 1621

    Articles and Resources
    - Dutch West India Company, 1621-1664 - Jersey City's Colonial Background
    - New Netherland Institute
    - Brief Biography: James the Duke of York / James II

    Further Reading
    - The Island at the Center of the World by Russell Shorto
    - The Dutch Atlantic: Slavery, Abolition and Emancipation by Kwame Nimako and Glenn Willemsen
    - New Netherland Connections: Intimate Networks and Atlantic Ties in Seventeenth-Century America by Susanah Shaw Romney

Here are the first books we will be reading

  1. American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard
    This first book will place colonial North America in context. It may seem like a strange place to start reading about Atlantic History, but since the focus of this group is the Atlantic World British North America and the United States developed in, it is a good place to start.
  2. Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age by Marcus Rediker
  3. The Atlantic World: Europeans, Africans, Indians and Their Shared History, 1400-1900 by Thomas Benjamin
  4. The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade: 1440-1870 by Hugh Thomas
  5. The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates by Peter T. Leeson
  6. Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America 1492-1830 by John H. Elliott
  7. The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down by Colin Woodard
  8. Lords of all the World: Ideologies of Empire in Spain, Britain and France c.1500-c.1800 by Anthony Pagden
  9. Empire of Blue Water: Captain Morgan's Great Pirate Army, the Epic Battle for the Americas, and the Catastrophe That Ended the Outlaws' Bloody Reign by Stephan Talty
  10. Atlantic Africa and the Spanish Caribbean, 1570-1640 by David Wheat
  11. A Cultural History of the Atlantic World, 1250-1820 by John K. Thornton
  12. Black Ranching Frontiers: African Cattle Herders of the Atlantic World, 1500-1900 by Andrew Sluyter

Click Here For The Complete Reading List.

Click Here For Suggestions on Meaningfully Participating in our group.