chapter  5
24 Pages

Americanizing English landscape habits

D URING THE formative period of modern nation-states, there has been an almost universal tendency for power and wealth to accumulate in one relatively small section of the country. In England, for example, the seat of power has always been located in the southeast, focused on London. In France, the modern nation-state was forged in the north in a small region between the middle section of the Loire and the lower Seine-ultimately focused on Paris. And, although American national history is compressed into a much shorter period, a similar geographical tendency has been at work. Ever since the United States gained its independence, political and economic power has tended to concentrate in the northeastern corner of the country. The nation's most important financial decisions were made there, and a huge proportion of America's wealth was controlled by northeastern financiers and northeastern corporations. Its most prestigious educational institutions were located there and still are, so that a disproportionate part of the country's power elite has been educated at northeastern prep schools, colleges, and universities. Through most of the country's history, most important political decisions were made there-officially, in the national capital in Washington, or informally in the clubs and boardrooms of Boston and New York and Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. And from the days of earliest European settlement, it was in the Northeast that Americans formed some of their most persistent geographical habits.