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History General

Discussion in 'General' started by Sleep, Apr 16, 2019.

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  1. Sleep

    Sleep [x] Write-In

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    I noticed a lack of history thread, and after some discussions wandered into a place where I wanted one, I decided to make it myself. I have no idea if people other then myself will use it, but I figured if I was going to have to make a thread anyway, it may as well be a general for other people to use too.

    Feel free to ask questions, recommend books or authors, post in-depth looks at different topics and generally conduct history.

    Basic Rules:

    1) Be ready to provide sources when asked, especially if you post answers. Not because people doubt you, but because we want to learn.

    2) Have some basic pride in your work, and try to apply some level of rigor to posts. This clearly isn't academic, but responding to honest historical questions with snark or one liners is not really desired.
    2a) For example, if someone asks a question about why the American revolution happened, and you post "Because they wanted lower taxes LUL" there will be a terrible reckoning.

    3) Understand that history is (by nature) argumentative, but be polite when you make arguments, especially when being critical of another user. By the same note, questions and (civil) arguments are an inherent part of doing history, and so don't be offended if someone questions part of your post.

    4) Remember Rule 8. Culture Wars stuff and contemporary politics stay out. If you want to make a post directly relating to those subjects, feel free to check with a mod, but this may not be the place for it.

    5) Historical fiction, quests and theorizing about alternative history are allowed, but only so long as they don't go wildly off topic. Questions, advertising or commentary about an industrial era quest are fine, a two page derail about Marian Alston having sweet, sweet lesbian sex is not.

    6) Feel free to ask for threadmarks.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2019
    Biigoh, Gaemnomut and wasprider like this.
  2. Threadmarks: Sleep - America and the Government, part one
    Sleep

    Sleep [x] Write-In

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    The question: Where did the American culture of anti-government and anti-authoritarian thought come from? Why do Americans hate and fear the government so much?

    There are a lot of shallow answers to this question, and several highly in-depth ones that look and the more modern dynamics of American society. For me, however, I see the question as a fundamental one to American history and culture in general. In order to answer it, I think you have to go back to the earliest days of America, and then look forward.

    I'm going to write this assuming that the reader doesn't know much about America or American history. As such, I'm taking a very broad stroke. I'm also going to go really, really in depth across a several posts.

    First though, we need to look at America. If you want to go right to my historical answer, feel free to skip this section.

    The first thing that's important to establish here is that America is big.

    [​IMG]

    It's really big.

    When you ask any question about "Why is America like x" or "Why do Americans think x" you're asking a reasonably crazy question. America is... it's really big. A lot of people talk about America being big, but it's worth emphasizing multiple times. America is 9.834 million kmĀ², and even when you only include the lower 48, it's 8,080,464.3 km2. It has a population of more then 327 million.

    The question, in some ways, is null. No matter what civic governments, pan-nationalists or universalist would argue, there is no culture in the world that is 327 million people large. America is one of the most mobile countries in the world, but many Americans will still never see the vast, vast majority of their country. This is important, because for all that many Americans will move, and the media can sometimes paint the United States as a single, massive blob, there remains major regional distinctions.

    To put this very bluntly, there is no one single America. America is a civic nation that unites a great number of component nations scattered across the county, not even speaking to the different modes of living for Americans. There are cultural commonalities throughout the nation, but there are very real regional and cultural divides.

    A modern primer.

    At least 165 million Americans, about 50% of the population, live in the American suburbs and small towns scattered across the country. They neither live the idealized live of the American farmer, nor the media fueled image of American metropolises. Some of these communities date from the earliest dates of America, while others are brand-new. Many of the legacies of different American cultures.

    More then 90 million Americans, closer to 100 million depending on the definition, live in the metropolises of the United States. If you look at cities by GDP generated, the largest economic engine in the world lies in Tokyo, Japan. Second and Third both belong to America, with New York, Los Angeles. Chicago Ranks 7th. In another country, these cities would fuel a culture and a nation. In the United States, they are but one of many.

    Of the top 20, 10 are American. Philadelphia, Washington, Dallas, Atlanta, San Francisco, Houston and Boston all sit as larger economic engines then cities then some of the capitals of the world. American urban depth by no means ends there. Of the top 50, 20 are American. While there are many similarities from city to city, there are also differences, and each one has it's own history.1

    About 65 million of them live outside cities entirely, in true 'Rural America'. Rural America, owing to it's wealth, united language, massive space, high population and the massive wealth disparities, is distinct. Almost nowhere else on earth boasts the kind of conditions that make up life for 20% of the country. While in many ways local, shared experience has created a national community here, partially united by a resistance to urbanized America and cultural institutions catered to them. Some of the most widely wealthy parts of America fall into this category, like the mighty farms of the Red River in North Dakota. At the same time, many rural communities are dying or desperately poor. It is the paradox of rural America.

    It is also the birthplace of the nation. When America was founded, Philadelphia was the largest city in the nation, a sprawling set of linked communities with a population of 50,000. By 1790, 5% of the nation lived in cities. The development of American cultures was not the modern picture interlinked metropolises and vast communication networks, but a number of independent colonies with the bones of a civic nation between them.

    [​IMG]

    The cultural landscape requires more history to make a modern primer. I will simply say that in the modern context, many people have tried build distinct maps of the cultural landscape of the United States. Inevitably, the differing cultural relationships, identities and exact boundaries of the maps come into contention. America is so large that it is functionally impossible for any single historian to build a truly accurate map that shows cultural dimensions at the level of granularity that culture exists in America. Only a collective project, mapping town by town and history by history could really build an accurate cultural map, and that would inevitably shift.

    (not that it's not fun to try)

    [​IMG]

    What's the point? What I want the reader to take away from this is a general sense of how America is split, and the fact that any answer asking about a wholesale American culture or attitudes is actually usually more then one answer. A majority of Americans might agree on a concept, or it might be a popular idea, but often times there will be large, often regional groups who disagree, and the story of how that opinion was reached will differ by region, with multiple different sources of information coming together to create a national consensus.

    The History

    Founding

    There is generally a consensus that the thirteen colonies were founded in a few, distinct groups. Some authors point to three groups (which, for example, is represented on Wikipedia) but I prefer 4 groups. New England, The Middle Colonies, Mid-Atlantic America and The South.

    Let's start with the first region.

    The Early Mid-Atlantic

    The Colonies of Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.

    The Virginia Company was officially the first English group to settle Americas. Colonization, for much of history, was not done by governments with imperialist ambitions, but by private groups who sometimes had government assent. The Virginia Company was one example of a private group with government assent. While Europeans had been in the Americas for more then 100 years at this point, the English only had failed attempts to their name. They were granted the right to settle in 1606, and started their colonies in 1707. They wanted to find gold. The Company attempted two colonies (each supported by a competing branch), Popham in Maine and Jamestown in Virginia. As you might guess from the name, Popham was a bitter failure, almost starving and then getting into a conflict with the people already living there, and folded within two years. Jamestown was also mostly a failure, almost starving to death, making no money and being settled on the lands of the Powhatan Confederacy, but they managed to survive long enough to be resupplied in 1710.2 Things generally went badly for a while in Virginia, with 5/6 colonists that arrived dead by famine, disease or losing a war to the Powhatan by 1624.

    It was the storied start of a nation.

    [​IMG]

    Unfortunately for the Virginia Company, losing a war and starving doesn't tend to make that much money, and the company was essentially failing by 1624 when the crown took over the colony. As a keen reader might notice, however, Virginia was still across the ocean from England, and so it was generally difficult to govern. While there was a single governor appointed, all tasks of government were done by the colonists themselves, and the colony generally ran quite independently. One of the main sources of assistance the crown could provide, however, was things like weapons and soldiers. By 1632, the colonists had generally won the war with British assistance, with the only cost being a notable portion of the colony. While distant from the Mother Colony, there seems to be little evidence of that anti-government sentiment (yet).

    You may also notice that these cost the mother country money for no real benefit. You may also notice that there has been no gold involved in this story, which was the original reason to go to America. This will be a common theme.

    In 1632, even as the wars around Virginia ended, there continued to be a lot of civil war in Europe. Catholics and Protestants3 didn't like each other very much. England was starting to become a pretty vicious place for English Catholics, as the country more and more identified itself as protestant. Thusly, Maryland was founded in 1632 as a haven for Catholics fleeing persecution in England.

    [​IMG]

    The English crown, at the time, had started a series of fun laws for Catholics that would (by 1760) create small inconveniences like banning them from inheriting property, getting legally married or holding any position in government. Trade between Maryland and Virginia was immediate, as was population transfer. The colony didn't specifically name Catholics to be colonists however, and its stance on religious toleration attracted all sorts of immigrants. The colony was the personal possession of Lord Baltimore, though the typical loose administration of the New World still applied, and towns away from the colonial capital tended to run themselves, often organizing along religious lines.

    Both colonies eventually found an export that could grow in the environment and actually make money: Tobacco. Virginia was generally in control of locals, but Maryland also had its share of wealthy farm lords by a certain point. The farming of tobacco was labor intensive, however, and both colonies were constantly short on manpower. The need for workers to cultivate the cash crops led to the start of three American institutions: First, the importation of prisoners, often the poor, from England as penal labor. Second, the arrival of indentured servants, often from Scotland and Ireland or other European countries. Finally, the beginning of the use of enslaved Africans for labor. Maryland in particular was a center for penal labor, receiving a large number of prisoners. The colonies, while they still fought wars with nearby native groups, were able to leverage this wealth into starting to become successful.

    By the 1640s, there was a major colony on each side of the Chesapeake, both of whom had not found gold, but had both stopped starving, and discovered that slavery was a really good way to farm cash crops. On the north side, the there was the centrally controlled but generally distrustful Maryland, with villages and communities through the colony following different faiths, most of whom had fled religious oppression for a corporate-feudal state. On the south side, the largely democratic, loyalist Virginia was becoming a wealthy community, with the wealth of English freemen driven by forced labor.

    [​IMG]

    Next: Early New England, and The English Civil War. I'm posting this section, as I'm going to bed. This will probably be edited, so feel free to point out mistakes.

    1 Nominal GDP data used, grabbed from wiki.
    2 There is a ton of information you can read about this, if you're interested.
    3 It's complicated.
     
  3. Gaemnomut

    Gaemnomut Experienced.

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    Good write up so far, looking forward to the next part.
     
  4. MizMahem

    MizMahem That guy who likes to write Omakes

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    Good write-up, but I think the most salient point has already been delivered. There are 327 million American, which represents an incredibly diverse group of culture, attitudes, lifestyles, and mindsets. There can be no one answer to the question of "why do Americans think X." Because all Americans don't all think alike. Not even close!
     
    Teln likes this.
  5. Sleep

    Sleep [x] Write-In

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    I think the fascinating part, however, is that there ARE a number of majority consensuses, even if they come from totally different places. The "Common-Sense Revolution" of 1996 was the first time in almost 50 years the republicans were able to build a wide enough mandate for strong house control, but the reasons different regions had similar priorities is totally different. There is a real strand of resistance to the government in American thought across America, sometimes for totally different reasons.
     
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