July 22, 2010

Neal Stephenson on Puritans and Victorians

I finally finished the 17th Century historical novel Quicksilver, the first volume of The Baroque Cycle by science fiction heavyweight Neal Stephenson. Stephenson is the author of 1992's Snow Crash, which libertarians usually celebrate as a utopian novel, but, considering the obvious borrowing of The Raft from Jean Raspail's Camp of the Saints, strikes me as dystopian.

Quicksilver involves, besides much else, the origin of the dispute between Newton and Leibniz over credit for the calculus. It's a sort of WASP Nerd's History of the World, the male equivalent of all those historical novels about princesses and duchesses that sell so well these days.

From a 2004 Salon interview by Laura Miller with Stephenson:
You're remarkably sympathetic to the Puritans, too, which is unusual these days.

I have a perverse weakness for past generations that are universally reviled today. The Victorians have a real bad name, and the word "Puritan" is never used except in a highly pejorative way, despite the fact that there are very strong Victorian and Puritan threads in our society today, and despite the fact that the Victorians and Puritans built the countries that we live in. The other one, by the way, is the '50s. Someday I'll have to write a '50s novel.

The reason why people are so vituperative about those generations is not because they know anything about the history, but because they're really talking about splits within our culture today that they're worried about. In the same spirit that I wrote a Victorian novel earlier in my career [The Diamond Age], I figured it might be a kick to see what to do with some Puritans. Not hip, jaded, cool Puritans, but honest-to-god, fire-breathing Puritans. Drake [Waterhouse, Daniel's father] is an arch-Puritan, but by no means exaggerated. There were a million guys like this running around England in those days. He became the patriarch of this family of people who have to respond to his larger-than-life status and extreme commitment to religion.

What do you admire about the Puritans?

They were tremendously effective people. They completely took over the country and they created an army pretty much from scratch that kicked everyone's ass. This is not always a good thing. They were guilty of some very bad behavior in Ireland, for example. But any way you slice it they were very effective. Cromwell was a tremendous military leader. A lot of that effectiveness was rooted in the fact that they had money, in part because persecuted religious minorities, if they're not persecuted out of existence, often manage to achieve disproportionate wealth. It happened with Jews, Armenians, Huguenots. Earlier in this project, I could have rattled off five more. They have to form private trading networks and lend each other money. They're unusually education conscious. Puritans -- and when we say Puritans, we're talking about a whole grab bag of religious groups -- tended to prize literacy and education. I'm sure they had a higher literacy rate than the general English population. Literacy and education make people more effective.
Another answer is that they very early on adopted a set of views on social topics that everyone now takes for granted as being basic tenets of Western civilization. They were heavily for free enterprise. They didn't want the state interfering in private property. Now our whole system is built on that. We tend to forget that someone had to come up with that idea and fight for it. And those people did.

In Jacques Barzun's big history From Dawn to Decadence, he calls attention to the Puritan political agitator John Lilburne (1614?-1657) as exemplary of the creativity of the English Civil War generation. I had never heard of Lilburne, but I see now that Supreme Court justice Hugo Black frequently cited his many arrests by Royalists and Cromwellian Puritans and his surprisingly large number of successful defenses at trials by appeals to the "freeborn rights" of Englishmen as fundamental to the tradition of rights that Americans wrote into the Constitution in the late 18th Century. 

Barzun writes:
What Lilburne carried whole in his mind, dozens of his fellow Puritan pamphleteers advocated piecemeal. Many called for a republic; the vote for all; the abolition of rank and privilege; equality before the law; free trade and a better distribution of poverty. Few urged tolerance. Again, because these goals were justified out of Scripture, the substance of Puritan political thought has been eclipsed. Later historians' secular minds prefer to read about free trade in Adam Smith than in Liblburne and his parable of the talents.

These 17th Century Puritans tended to be prickly, annoying people (Newton, for example, was insufferable, although he was suffered, because he was Newton), while the big names of the 18th Century, such as Franklin, Hume, Gibbon, Johnson, Burke, Voltaire, Diderot, and so forth (with the exception of Rousseau) tended to be charming men.

As for Quicksilver, well, I tend to like The Idea of Stephenson more than I quite like Stephenson's books. He chooses a point on the Quantity - Quality trade-off continuum that works better for him as a professional author than for me as an occasional reader. As he acknowledges in his Acknowledgments right upfront:
Of particular note is Sir Winston Spencer Churchill's six-volume biography of Marlborough, which people who are really interested in this period of history should read, and people who think that I am too long-winded should weigh.

52 comments:

Anonymous said...

Newton was crazy.

Howard Hughes said...

"Stephenson is the author of 1992's Snow Crash, which libertarians usually celebrate as a utopian novel,"
They do? I have never seen anybody state that; seems like a rather weird idea.

R J Stove said...

I think it was Cromwell himself - certainly it was someone in 17th-century England - who was so annoyed by Lilburne's cussedness that he said: "If the world contained none but John Lilburne, John would quarrel with Lilburne, and Lilburne with John." At one stage Cromwell (whether or not it was he who uttered the above) certainly got so fed up with Lilburne as to fling him into the Tower of London, partly because Lilburne tended to be supportive of things like democracy. Biiiiiiiiig mistake.

Henry Canaday said...

Marlborough is by far Churchill’s best book. It was Churchill’s revenge on the professional historians, including his youthful idol Macaulay, for their attacks on his great ancestor. He slaved at it for the better part for a decade. It was the only major book Churchill wrote when he was in his prime and not working a day job in government.

The biography contains a thorough and smart analysis of the military weapons and tactics that enabled the Duke to go 20 for 20 against Louis’s armies. It explains the transformation of warring Civil War factions into a free press, the modern two-party system and effective parliamentary government. And it narrates a great 30-year love story about a couple who seldom spent more than a couple of months together at a time.

Churchill was wise enough to give the last and best lines to Sarah. Recently widowed, Sarah Churchill receives a marriage proposal from a rich friend. She replies, “If I were young and handsome as I was, instead of old and faded as I am, and you could lay the empire of the world at my feet, you should never share the heart and hand that once belonged to John, Duke of Marlborough.”

dearieme said...

"They were guilty of some very bad behavior in Ireland, for example." I dare say they were, but the most famous atrocity of which they were accused, the Massacre of Drogheda, is apparently fake - it didn't happen.

Anonymous said...

They have to form private trading networks and lend each other money. They're unusually education conscious. Puritans -- and when we say Puritans, we're talking about a whole grab bag of religious groups -- tended to prize literacy and education.
..........
They were heavily for free enterprise. They didn't want the state interfering in private property. Now our whole system is built on that.


Let's add to that description, historian Paul Johnson's descripton of the Puritans: “They were the zealots, the idealists, the utopians, the saints, and the best of them, or perhaps one should say the most extreme of them, were fanatical, uncompromising and overweening in their self-righteousness.”

If the Puritans sound a lot like Jews, it's because they were Judeo-Christians. So next time you wonder how the WASP elite have been displaced in this country by Jews, keep that in mine.

Anonymous said...

Any mention of Newton designed to prove anything about any person, any group or any thing other than Newton himself is silly. His achievements tower so far beyond those of any other man who ever lived that he's indicative of nothing.

VG said...

I have Stephenson's 'Cryptonomicon' lying on my shelves but, shame on me, haven't got around to start reading it yet.

Paul Mendez said...

I like the Victorians, with their emphasis on building a prosperous and self-made middle class.

I like their approach to solving societal problems through strengthening the nuclear family rather than creating a nanny state government.

I like their mechanical inventiveness and entrepreneurial spirit.

I also like the way they got away with painting lots of hot nude women and girls by calling them "allegorical figures" or "nymphs" or such.

Florida resident. said...

No comments on puritans and victorians.
A great mathematician once said (rather unfriendly) about Leibnitz: He invented the notations (for differentiation and integration), with which people, who do not understand Calculus, can teach it to the people, who will never understand Calculus.
Your respectfully, Florida resident.

Dave said...

Stephenson peaked with Cryptonomicon (the book that features the late 20th Century descendants of the characters in Quicksilver). That book was a page-turner. In fact, it was so readable and entertaining that Stephenson got some criticism for that (believe it or not). I think the trilogy that followed was his attempt to show he could write dense, turgid stuff just like those novelists the critics fawn over. If you haven't read Cryptonomicon, treat yourself to it.

The Diamond Age is worth reading as well. It's set in a future of material abundance, thanks to nanotechnology, but one that still has some interesting social dysfunction.

Matt said...

Re: libertarian themes in Stephenson, I suggest reading The Diamond Age. It's probably set in the Snow Crash universe about 75 years later, and it written in a more realistic mode. You have what amounts to voluntary governments as the worldwide standard.

But anyway, the Baroque Cycle is a great if somewhat exhausting read. If you haven't already read Cryptonomicon, do that when you finish. In my opinion that one is probably his best individual work.

Anonymous said...

Do persecuted religious minorities someyimes gain disporportunate wealth because of the persicution, or do minorities with disporportunate wealth generating abilites become persecuted?

Dutch Boy said...

The Puritans and the English elite in general got rich off the confiscated lands of the Catholic Church, which they then enclosed for sheep farming and threw the peasantry off the land to starve. They then multiplied laws against beggary and theft which allowed them to ship the poor off to the new world as slaves/indentured servants. The swag from the wool trade provided the capital for industrialization and another round of exploitation, e.g., orphans working in cotton mills, servicing machines while they ran to maximize production and being beaten with iron rods if they were too slow for their bosses' taste.

al harb...al haak said...

" If the Puritans sound a lot like Jews, it's because they were Judeo-Christians. So next time you wonder how the WASP elite have been displaced in this country by Jews, keep that in (sic) mine."


It was Cromwell,of course, who let the Jews back into England. As a Calvinist, (not a Lutheran) he believed that once God chooses you, he doesn't unchoose you. And God picked the Jews.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Cromwell feel obligated to justify his actions? The Protector would hardly have done so if nothing had happened.

Stephenson's Cryptonomicon is not about cthuluian monsters. Big disappointment.

Anonymous said...

They do? I have never seen anybody state that; seems like a rather weird idea.

It's utopian if the highest good you can conceive of is getting into a teenage skate rat's pants, I guess.

Anonymous said...

The Baroque cycle gets a lot better after the first volume. The "cool stuff" and neat history increases, and the tedium decreases. By Vol. III, Stephenson is really hitting his stride.

Anonymous said...

@ Dutch Boy

Your have been reading too much anti-Puritan propaganda. The Puritans did not get rich of the lands of the Catholic church. Henry VIII gave most of it to his favorites who undoubtedly fought for the Royalists in the Civil War. The great landed families were not Puritans and did not throw their peasants off the land until the industrial revolution had made sheep raising profitable. As for sending beggars and convicted felons off to America as indentured servants--it was a very practical solution to the poverty which had plagued England since long before the Puritans came to power. I wish some solution were available to us today. One of my ancestors was a Puritan, and he came to America voluntarily as an indentured servant because he was the son of a poor weaver and saw it as his best chance to rise in the world. Vilifying the Puritans is just a part of the great project of the left to rewrite history as a morality play which denigrates America's founding stock. Culture of Critique indeed.

Bufton-Tufton J.P. said...

"The Puritans and the English elite in general got rich off the confiscated lands of the Catholic Church, which they then enclosed for sheep farming and threw the peasantry off the land to starve. They then multiplied laws against beggary and theft which allowed them to ship the poor off to the new world as slaves/indentured servants. The swag from the wool trade provided the capital for industrialization and another round of exploitation, e.g., orphans working in cotton mills, servicing machines while they ran to maximize production and being beaten with iron rods if they were too slow for their bosses' taste."

Shouldn't that be "Irish Boy"? Judging by your conflation of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the Highland Clearances, the Enclosure Movement, and the Industrial Revolution into a single event, and your complete misunderstanding of the Bloody Code, I'll bet your knowledge of English history would fit comfortably on the back of a matchbook.

You're banned from expressing an opinion on the Internet for one month.

Steve Sailer said...

"Any mention of Newton designed to prove anything about any person, any group or any thing other than Newton himself is silly. His achievements tower so far beyond those of any other man who ever lived that he's indicative of nothing."

Just like Michelangelo's towering achievements have nothing to do with being born in Florence in the Quattrocento, or Beethoven's with being born in Germany in the 18th Century.

Dave R. said...

In my opinion the best science fiction mixes dystopian and utopian themes. (Starship Troopers, Diamond Age, Snow Crash.) The author picking only one results in polemics, not literature.

David said...

>By Vol. III, Stephenson is really hitting his stride.<

This takes the cake for left-handed compliments!

BamaGirl said...

"Vilifying the Puritans is just a part of the great project of the left to rewrite history as a morality play which denigrates America's founding stock. Culture of Critique indeed."

The Puritans are not the "founding stock" for any area outside of New England. The Virginia colony was there before the Massachusetts one, remember? "Puritans" and their wealthy descendants have probably caused more harm than good over the years.

Dutch Boy said...

Lords, no longer petty sovereigns, but astute businessmen were leasing their demesnes to capitalist farmers , quick to grasp the profits to be won by sheep-grazing, and eager to clear away the network of communal restrictions which impeded its extension.
The revolution in prices . . . after 1540 . . . injected a virus of hitherto unsuspected potency, at once a stimulant to feverish enterprise and an acid dissolving all customary relationships.
The aim of the great landowner was no longer to hold at his call an army of retainers, but to exploit his estates as a judicious investment.
The haunting insecurity of a growing, though still small, proletariat, [was] detached from their narrow niche in village or borough, [and became] the sport of social forces which they could neither understand, nor arrest, nor control.
If, however, the problem was acute long before the confiscation of the monastic estates, its aggravation by the fury of spoliation let loose by Henry and Cromwell is not open to serious question. … Estates with a capital value (in terms of modern money) of 15 to 20 million pounds changed hands. To the abbey lands which came into the market after 1536 were added those of the gilds and chantries in 1547.

- R. H. Tawney’s "Religion and the Rise of Capitalism"

These changes continued under the rule of Puritans as they took over the apparatus of exploitation from their royalist pre-cursors and became the business class of Great Britain (heck, I didn't even get into the rape of Ireland which makes the Puritans' activities in Britain look like a church picnic!).

Anonymous said...

Stephen's storytelly style is faux-naif: he will start a paragraph by saying 'then the hero did blah'.

Then, he will spend the rest of the paragraph making up a story about how the hero did blah. It's like a little kid's idea of how to tell a story. Or a speed freak's (his first books may have had chemical aid). He makes it work.

I've never seen another writer quite do this. It jumps out at you in his first eco-thriller, and then you see it popping up in later books.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

I am wading hip-deep thru the first pages of Quicksilver now. I know Cambridge, Mass. is going to figure pretty heavily in things. Eventually.

Ash said...

It's almost like your avoiding reading Stephenson's truly good novels.

His best novels, IMHO, are The Diamond Age and Anathem.

Cryptonomicon is second-best.

Snow Crash is entertaining, but not serious. At this point it should be considered part of his Juvenilia.

The trilogy that begins with Quicksilver are failures; long and dull.

So, by all means, read The Diamond Age first, if you're going to read anything by him. You'll find it extremely interesting.

Ash said...

I want to really emphasize this, for people who liked The Diamond Age and Cryptonomicon: Anathem is great. It's also unique, because for the first time Stephenson CREATES A WORLD. Stephenson's created world, Arbre, is as detailed and lovely as anything Tolkien created.

Anonymous said...

Stephenson's Cryptonomicon is not about cthuluian monsters. Big disappointment.

Are Cromwellian monsters any worse?

Steve Sailer said...

Yeah, I read "The Diamond Age" a few years ago. It seemed like it was going to be great for about the first 100 pages.

I very much would like it if Stephenson wrote novels that I would find great. He may very well have the talent to do it if he reduced his pagecount output per year. But he has thought long and hard about exactly that issue and has consciously decided to go in the opposite direction.

He is choosing to write a different kind of novel than what I most like. His view is that, as Stalin said, quantity has a quality all its own. He once tried writing a novel where he pared away everything that wasn't perfect, but it failed and was never published. Instead, he comes from a sci-fi tradition where what's most important are interesting ideas, and lapses in quality can be overlooked if the quantity of interesting ideas is high enough.

I understand and respect that point of view.

Anonymous said...

Vilifying the Puritans is just a part of the great project of the left to rewrite history as a morality play which denigrates America's founding stock. Culture of Critique indeed.

The Puritans, along with the Victorians and 1950sians, had some of the worst child-raising practices (esp. for males) on the planet. Sure, they made some damn great societies, but the same could be said about the Aztecs.

Could that be the real reason why there is still so much vilification of the Puritans (and similar Anglo-Saxon cultures) - rather than some tedious and irrelevant left-right issues?

Anonymous said...

I did some work for Stephenson about 5 years ago on his house. He and his house did not give the 'druggy' vibe at all.

Cromwellian monsters are all well and bad just not as creepy/tentacly as cthulu.

Eric said...

I love the way Stephenson thinks, but I'm not a big fan of the way he writes. I find his prose to be sort of dull and lifeless. Cryptonomicon and The Diamond Age represent, IMO, his best work.

coldequation said...

I saw Stephenson's Puritans as proto-progressives - anti-slavery, anti-class distinctions, anti-monarchy, and, by the time Daniel Waterhouse is old, atheistic. The Catholics are thoroughly demonized. It's Whig history (or Whig historical fiction).

Tom Brady said...

"The Puritans are not the "founding stock" for any area outside of New England. The Virginia colony was there before the Massachusetts one, remember? "Puritans" and their wealthy descendants have probably caused more harm than good over the years."

Oh, for the love of Christ. Without the Puritans and New England -- if America's founding stock were limited to southern plantation owners and indentured servants -- America today would be an Anglo Argentina, at best. America as we know it was a creation of the Puritans.

elvisd said...

"Vilifying the Puritans is just a part of the great project of the left to rewrite history as a morality play which denigrates America's founding stock. Culture of Critique indeed."

The Puritans are not the "founding stock" for any area outside of New England. The Virginia colony was there before the Massachusetts one, remember? "Puritans" and their wealthy descendants have probably caused more harm than good over the years."

Oh, lord, must we delve into the old Yankee Puritan/Virginia Cavalier dichotomy?
Who was there first, a difference of a decade, is trivial. My family has been in the South since the first Virginia settlements, but the Puritans instituted much that has made this country great, regardless if their Boston lib descendants are some of the most annoying people in the world.

When my friends run the Cold Puritans vs Dandy Southern Cavalier line, I refer them to the best short analysis of the two regions, which is Tocqueville's. His admiration for the Yankee (but even more so, the Mid-Atlantic peoples) is clear. He breaks down the difference in the respective characters of the coastal civilizations quite well. Check it out, 'Bama Girl.
Signed,
Mississippi Boy

BamaGirl said...

"Oh, for the love of Christ. Without the Puritans and New England -- if America's founding stock were limited to southern plantation owners and indentured servants -- America today would be an Anglo Argentina, at best. America as we know it was a creation of the Puritans."

You know this how? And there were yeoman farmers and cities in the South in addition to indentured servants/ plantation owners. I'm aware of Puritan contributions to the development of the country, however I don't see them as some superior "founding stock" of the country. I don't see why the Mayflower crowd is constantly glorified more than the other early settlers to the colonies who probably had to deal with far more hostile conditions.

Anonymous said...

I finished off the Baroque Cycle last year. It was pretty good, and very interesting in parts, but I Shall Never Read It Again. It's that long! Like a commenter up the thread, I found the third book the best. I liked the second book least, although there's some interesting coverage of the otherwise not much acknowledged reality of slavery outside the transatlantic routes.

Although I think Cryptonomicon is Stephenson's masterpiece -- the Cap'n Crunch-eating sequence will no doubt be pored over by literary scholars centuries hence as they try to plumb our era's obsession with the trivial -- The Diamond Age may be his most prescient. The latter part of the book with the weirdo drummers is lousy (he's really not very good with endings, although he's gotten better in later works). But the book's setup, with the Young Lady's Illustrated Primer, and the offshore neo-Victorian ocean-gated community, is ripe with implication.

I also like Anathem very much; it's a lot more fun to read than the Baroque Cycle.

Mitch said...

Stephenson writes a third of a brilliant book, a third of a good book, and a third which just falls apart. That said, the opening of Snow Crash with the pizza delivery is one of the funniest things I've read. The opening to Cryptonomicon, with Bobby Shaftoe making haikus while on a truck in the middle of Shanghai is pretty awesome. But it all falls apart and I don't think I've reread any of his books again.

I think his uncle forces him to edit. The two books they wrote together, Interface and Cobweb, are not nearly as flashy, but far more consistent--and they both finish very wll. I reread them often. They're solid political thrillers in the Richard Condon vein.

josh said...

"The Virginia colony was there before the Massachusetts one, remember."

While it is technically true that the VA colony was founded before the (Puritan) Plymouth colony, the great migration of Puritans occured in the 1630s, while the Cavaliers didn't begin arriving until the tenure of Berkeley some 20 years later. This is all related to the English Civil War. So, the founding stock of NE arrived before what became the founding stock of the south.

You may also, recall that the South was conquered and reconstructed and now generally practices religions dispersed by the Yankees.

Anonymous said...

The Puritans are not the "founding stock" for any area outside of New England. The Virginia colony was there before the Massachusetts one, remember? "Puritans" and their wealthy descendants have probably caused more harm than good over the years."

When my friends run the Cold Puritans vs Dandy Southern Cavalier line, I refer them to the best short analysis of the two regions, which is Tocqueville's. His admiration for the Yankee (but even more so, the Mid-Atlantic peoples) is clear. He breaks down the difference in the respective characters of the coastal civilizations quite well. Check it out, 'Bama Girl.

***

What about those Mid-Atlantic settlers? Always whitewashed out of American history. We seem to forget the colony of New Netherland, today known as New York and New Jersey. It was founded at the same time as the Plymouth Plantation. From the beginning New Netherland was noted for its tolerance of religion and ethnicity as well as its embrace of trade and enterprise. Hmmm... sounds more like the United States than the harsh theocracy of New England.

Last, but definitely not least, was the colony of Pennsylvania. Also noted for its tolerance of religion and ethnicity. A place teeming with Rhinelanders and Ulsterman plus a few Welsh and English. Its folkways were spread far and wide across the United States. The Rhinelanders tending towards the north as they spread west and the Ulsterman taking the southern route.

While the New Englanders and the Virginians have always argued over who was more important to the development of the United States, it is the descendents of the Mid-Atlantic settlers who have always had the most cultural impact.


Red Fox

Lucille said...

I don't see why the Mayflower crowd is constantly glorified more than the other early settlers to the colonies who probably had to deal with far more hostile conditions.

What hostile conditions existed in Virginia (and the rest of the southern coast) that didn't exist in Massachussetts (or the rest of New England)?

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Re: Steve's readers - I'd like to know how many professional comedians read his stuff. I hope whoever came up with the 'Canadian stunned whore' has his own show.

Black Sea said...

"What hostile conditions existed in Virginia (and the rest of the southern coast) that didn't exist in Massachussetts (or the rest of New England)?"


Malaria and Yellow Fever were far worse in the southern colonies.

Anonymous said...

"It's utopian if the highest good you can conceive of is getting into a teenage skate rat's pants, I guess."

OK, one of the higher goods, then.

Doug1 said...

Red Fox--

Have you read Albion's Seed? That's the definitive work on the subject of America's founding populations and folkways, and good read as well. From north to south:

*New England Puritans (who were the first in bulk)

*Mid Atlantic Quaker English, Dutch and Germans

*Scots Irish, from the Scots/English border lands and Ulter; and

*Virginia Cavaliers and soon their african slaves.

Anonymous said...

Doug 1:

The problem with Albion's Seed is that its premise is carried too far. Yes, those were the four seed groups from Britain, a.k.a. Albion, but not all seeds sprout and germinate. The Puritans and the Irish Presbyterians, a.k.a. the Scotch-Irish, sprouted and germinated but the Quakers and Cavaliers were very small and localized groups. While the Quakers did maintain political control of Pennsylvania during the colonial period due to alliance building, they were just one of many religious groups in that colony: Amish, Dunker, Schwenkfelder, Mennonite, Moravian, Lutheran, German Reformed, Anglican, and Presbyterian. The point is that Pennsylvania like New York, New Jersey, and Delaware were a melting pot of the Germanic and Celtic peoples of Europe. This melting pot culture became the dominant northern culture rather than the very homogenized New England society.

Virginia was an interesting colony in that it was the prototype for Britain's policy towards Australia. In other words it started off as a place to dump criminals and the urban poor. These indentured servants died in such large numbers that the plantation owners soon shifted to black slaves. So yes, the plantation owner class in the Tidewater region remained British, but the workforce was of West African extraction. In the meantime, the Irish Presbyterians and some Pennsylvania Dutch followed the Great Wagon Road, modern day Interstate 81, down into the Piedmont region of Virginia and North Carolina. Thus the small number of Cavaliers were geographically blocked from further expansion.

If you want to read a good book then pick up Alan Taylor's American Colonies: The Settling of North America. It is a better read than Albion's Seed and provides a more comprehensive overview, though the Mid-Atlantic still gets superficial treatment, of the settling of North America.

Red Fox

AmandaRose said...

I don't know if I can get into this series, but I did just finish "Diamond Age" and loved it! Check out my review http://amandarosetew.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

BamaGirl: "The Puritans are not the "founding stock" for any area outside of New England."

False.

See Albion's Seed, page 51, which shows New England settlements in 14 states and even a bit of Quebec, stretching as far west by 1860 as WI, and as far south as the IN-KY border. These New England settlements, which include the famous Western Reserve, form the entirety of what later became the wealthy Great Lakes industrial area.

You can see the influence even now. "Architecture in the Western Reserve mimicked that of the New England towns from which its settlers originally came. ... Towns ... exemplify the mixture of these styles and traditional New England town planning. Cleveland's Public Square is even characteristic of a traditional New England town Green." [wiki]

Western Reservist

Steve Sailer said...

“If I were young and handsome as I was, instead of old and faded as I am, and you could lay the empire of the world at my feet, you should never share the heart and hand that once belonged to John, Duke of Marlborough.”

In Stephenson's Dramatis Personae, Marlborough's occupation is listed as "Hero"

Steve Sailer said...

"The problem with Albion's Seed is that its premise is carried too far."

Yeah, I kept waiting for Fischer to mention New York City in his history of America, but New York doesn't fit his scheme, so he skips over it. Granted, that has a lot of advantages over the usual New York-centric history, but still ... We're talking about New York, New York.