Spring 2012 Books

PrintPrintEmailEmail Yankees have the greatest faith in the potential of government to improve people’s lives . . . through social engineering, relatively extensive citizen involvement . . . and the assimilation of foreigners.”
“New Netherland,” a tiny legacy of the original Dutch colony, was “from the start a global commercial trading society: multi-ethnic, multi-religious, speculative, materialistic, mercantile and free trading, having a profound tolerance of diversity and an unflinching commitment to the freedom of inquiry.” Ergo the boroughs of New York City and adjacent tracts of Connecticut, upper New Jersey, and all of Long Island have “replaced Amsterdam as the leading world center of Western commerce, finance and publishing.”
In short, Woodard’s lively thesis presents a multidisciplinary amalgam combining elements of geography, history, economics, linguistics, and cultural evolution. It convincingly explains some of the logjams in our national agenda as resulting from differences between the peoples of his defined “nations”—logjams that appear to reflect regional and political realities that can’t be otherwise rationalized and likely won’t ever be resolved. By defining America as eleven virtual nations bound by historical accident, legal precedents, and habit, he “explains much about who we North Americans are, where we’ve come from, and where we might be going.” (Viking, 371 pages, $30)