Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America

albions-seedAfter reading Albion’s Seed, I decided to write a review about each of the Four British Folkways that author David Hackett Fischer discusses in the book. Since the reviews are considerably longer than most book reviews I write, I created this page to organize the theories and ideas laid out in the book.

What is a Folkway?

Fischer defines a folkway as the beliefs and customs that represent a group. In his book, Fischer examines 20-25 beliefs and customs for each of the four British American colonies. This includes customs about speech, marriage, religion, education, food, work, government, sex and clothing to name a few.

Why This Method Works

By paring society down to specific patterns, Fischer is able to dissect each of the four British settlements in an apples-to-apples comparison. So, for example, by examining how the Puritans chose to govern their society one can see how it measures up to the way the Virginia colony (where the Claywells landed) was governed.

What I Left Out

The bulk of the book. Each of the book’s four sections deals with so many customs that I had to pick which ones to focus on. I chose to look at sex, money and recreation because I felt those subjects would appeal to the broadest range of people.

Part One: The Puritans At Massachusetts Bay Colony

In this portion of the book, I discovered a lot of my beliefs about the Puritans were incorrect. In this post I look at Fischer’s interpretation of three of the folkways: Money, Recreation and Sex.

Part Two: The Virginia Colony

This colony is especially interesting to me since my paternal line landed here in 1664. The differences between the Virginia and the other colonies is significant, but one of the most pressing differences is the clientele brought to the colony — mostly poor, illiterate and unattached men. Just like with the first colony,  in this post I look at Fischer’s interpretation of three of the Colony’s folkways: Money, Recreation and Sex.

Part Three: The Quaker Colony

Quakers, who were persecuted — and even executed for their faith — in the Virginia and Puritan colonies saw their settlement as a ‘holy experiment.’ Because of this mission, their colony was the most ethnically and religiously diverse of the four British American settlements. In this post, I examine Fischer’s interpretation of their folkways concerning Money, Recreation and Sex.

Part Four: The Backcountry

Just like the Virginia Colony, this section is of personal interest to me. The Claywells landed in Virginia and the Beatys, my maternal line, were members of the Backcountry Colony. This fiercely independent colony played an integral part in the Revolutionary War and would eventually be known as Appalachia. Read about their customs concerning Money, Recreation and Sex.

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