Common section

Image The Expansion of Four Regional Cultures

By the year 1770 the four folk cultures had taken firm root in British America. All expanded rapidly. Emigrants from Massachusetts founded colonies with similar cultures in Connecticut, New Hampshire, southern Maine, eastern Vermont, Long Island, East Jersey, upstate New York and northern Ohio. The culture of tidewater Virginia expanded into southern Maryland, southern Delaware, coastal North Carolina and west beyond the mountains to parts of Kentucky. The folkways of the Delaware Valley spread through West Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, parts of northeastern Maryland and central Ohio. After 1740 the borderers of North Britain rapidly occupied the Appalachian highlands from Pennsylvania to the Georgia, and moved west to the Mississippi.

The people of these four cultures shared many traits in common. Nearly all spoke the English language, lived by British laws, and cherished their ancestral liberties. Most dwelled in nuclear households, and had broadly similar patterns of marital fertility.

Four Regional Cultures in Anglo-America; A Summary of Cultural Characteristics, ca. 1700–50




Definitions of Quantitative Indicators:


Age bias, computed as a ratio of the reported age to expected age


Voting participation as a proportion of adult white males


Bastardy rate, illegitimate births per 1000 total births


Crime index, ratio violent crimes against persons to crimes against property


Mean years enrolled


Completed family size, mean number of children born to all families


Gini ratio, ranging from .00 (perfect equality) to .99 (perfect inequality, the uppermost percentile owns all)


Land grants, mean size in acres


Mean age at first marriage


Naming patterns, proportion of biblical names


Proportion of first-born children named for parents


Crimes against order, as a proportion of all crimes


Prenuptial pregnancy rate, proportion of first births within 8 months of marriage


Refined persistence rate, percent of living adults persisting through ten years


Signature/mark literacy rates, percent signing by mark.


Season of marriage, the timing of major peaks in the annual marriage cycle

Their prevailing religion was Christian and Protestant. Their lands were privately owned according to peculiar British ideas of property which were adopted throughout much of the United States. But in other ways these four British cultures were very different from one another. The more we learn empirically about them, the less similar they appear to be. The skeptical reader is invited to review the evidence of this inquiry, which is summarized in the preceding table.

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