The author of American Nations returns to the historical study of a fractured America by examining how a myth of national unity, purpose, and identity was created and fought over in the nineteenth century--a myth that continues to affect us today

Union tells the story of the struggle to create a national myth for the United States, one that could hold its rival regional cultures together and forge, for the first time, an American nationhood. Its authors were a small group of committed individuals--historians, political leaders, and novelists--who fashioned and promoted a history that attempted to transcend and erase the fundamental differences and profound tensions among the country's regional cultures. America, they argued, had a God-given mission to lead humanity toward freedom, equality, and self-government, and they found common purpose in fealty to these ideals.

This emerging nationalist story was immediately and powerfully contested by another set of intellectuals and firebrands who argued that the United States was instead an ethnostate, the homeland of the allegedly superior "Anglo-Saxon" race. Their vision helped create a new federation--the Confederacy--that led to the bloody Civil War. While defeated on the battlefield, they later won the war of ideas by placing Woodrow Wilson in the White House and achieving the first consensus, pan-regional vision of the United States. This narrower, more exclusive vision of America would be overthrown by midcentury, but it was never fully vanquished. Colin Woodard tells the story of the genesis of and epic confrontations between these visions of our nation's path and purpose through the lives of the key figures who created them, a cast of characters whose personal idiosyncrasies and virtues, gifts and demons shaped the destinies of millions.
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