Albion's Seed Grows in the Cumberland Gap
Regionalism is not unique to America. Geopolitics creates regional distinctions around the world. Great Britain is no exception. Due to constant battles between Scotland and England, the borderlands between the two countries developed a distinctive culture in the seventeenth and eighteenth centures. This culture arose from the unstable world of violence and transience there. This instability had two main causes. The first of these was the frequent battles between the English and Scottish that prevented people on both sides of the border from establishing an invariable civilization. The second main cause of instability on the borders was the basic geographic identity of a border as a place frequently crossed, frequently travelled through rather than settled in. The Anglo-Scotch borders therefore developed a culture based on instability, a consistency built on inconsistency.
The people of this region sought comfort from such instability in strong family units called clans. They also found stability in their system of beliefs, which found answers in a perpetually questioning world, wrought with death and disaster, by turning to traditions and portents.
When the people of this borderland immigrated to America, they carried their culture with them. They settled most often in America's backcountry, since it was geographically and politically parallel to the borders from whence they came. There arose, therefore, in the backcountry of America, a culture much like the one seen on the Anglo-Scottish borders.
The Cumberland Gap of Kentucky is a good example of the borderland-derived, backcountry culture. Like the borders, the Gap was a place of transience, peopled mainly by travellers on their way into the western frontiers. They faced violence from Indian attacks and later from Civil War disputes for the land and its resources. Because the Cumberland Gap, like most of the Appalachian Region, has remained so isolated and static since its settlement, it remains in many ways a testimony to the influence of borderland culture in the backcountries of America.
Wilderness Road Through
Table of Contents
Created by Elizabeth Semancik
May 1, 1997
The American Studies Program
at the University of Virginia