“Albion’s Seed” Book Review

Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America, by David Hackett Fischer.
Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America, by David Hackett Fischer.

East Anglia to Massachusetts:
The Exodus of the English Puritans, 1629–41

The South of England to Virginia:
Distressed Cavaliers & Indentured Servants, 1642–1775

North Midlands to the Delaware:
The Friends’ Migration 1675–1725

Borderlands to the Backcountry:
The Flight from North Britain, 1717–1775

When my youngest son heard the book I am writing reaches back to 1630s London, England, he mentioned, Albion’s Seed.

Albion is the oldest known name for Great Britain. Mr. Fischer discusses four groups of English settlers from four different regions in Great Britain; four different time periods; and the “folkways” each group brought—threads of which continue in the fabric of today’s society.

Some folkways covered: speech, building, family, marriage, naming, death, religious, food, dress, sports, freedom.—pages 8 & 9.

Mr. Fischer corrects and explains some misconceptions on dress.

• Steeple hats and ‘sadd colors’ (p. 140) were typical of Puritan dressways. Both men and women in New England did actually wear the broad-brimmed steeple hats of legend, historical revisionists nothwithstanding.—p. 142.
• Even in the twentieth century, the descendants of the Puritans still wear suits of slate-grey and Philly-mort. In Boston…Brahmin ladies still dress in sad colors…—p. 145.)

Lawful entertainment included two amusements: The Boston game is known today as American football. The New England game/the Massachusetts game/town ball/round ball is of course our baseball. Both games descended from “a large family of English folk games.”—from pp. 148–151.

My father often added an “r” to words such as Hawaii became Hawaiur. I found the answer to this on pp. 59–60 regarding New Englander speechways:

Other common pronunciations were… ‘Americur’ for ‘America’… Some ‘r’s’ disappeared (Harvard became Haa-v’d)…other r’s were added. ‘Follow’ was pronounced ‘foller,’ and ‘asked’ became ‘arst’…Precisely the same sounds still exist today in remote parts of East Anglia.

Because my focus is on the earlier English Puritan migration, I have the sections on the Cavaliers, Quakers, and North Britain left to read.

Packed with helpful drawings, maps, and tables (including “Genealogical Links to New England’s Puritan Elite”), I found this a great resource.

Fischer, David Hackett, Albion’s Seed, Four British Folkways in America, NY: Oxford University Press, 1989

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One Response to “Albion’s Seed” Book Review

  1. Richard E. James says:

    I realize now that I am aware of Professor Fischer’s work. I believe I read a review of this book not too long ago. I will certainly get this one.

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