Friday, August 28, 2020

Speaking on Union and the battle to define US nationhood with the German Marshall Fund, Sept. 1

On September 1 at 10:30 Eastern (4:30 CET), I'll be speaking with the German Marshall Fund's executive vice president, Derek Chollet about Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood as part of GMF's ongoing (and, now, virtual) author series.

The event is free and open to the public, but you do need to register.

[Update, 9/17/20: Thanks to all who attended -- and there were a lot of you from both sides of the Atlantic! The talk is up on YouTube here.]

Here's the invite from GMF, who I thank for hosting this event:


Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood

A Book Talk with Colin Woodard


Tuesday, September 1, 2020
10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. EDT | 4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. CET 


Colin Woodard

State and National Affairs Writer, Portland Press Herald


Derek Chollet

Executive Vice President, GMF 


Register for Event


The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) is pleased to invite you to a virtual book talk with bestselling author, historian, and journalist Colin Woodard. His latest book, Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood, describes the 19th century effort to create and propagate a national narrative for the U.S. that could unite its disparate regional cultures, a project that quickly became a battle between civic and ethnic nationalist visions for the young federation. Join Woodard and GMF Executive Vice President Derek Chollet as they discuss how the belief that the United States was or should be an American Anglo-Saxon ethnostate has confounded the country's efforts to achieve its civic ideals and continues to affect its political landscape and fundamental stability today.

If you have any questions, please contact Itai Barsade at

Please consider supporting independent book sellers by buying a copy at if you are based in the United States.  



The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) strengthens transatlantic cooperation on regional, national, and global challenges and opportunities in the spirit of the Marshall Plan.



Colin Woodard, a New York Times bestselling author and historian, is the state and national affairs writer at the Portland Press Herald, where he received a 2012 George Polk Award and was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting. A longtime foreign correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor and the San Francisco Chronicle, he has reported from more than fifty foreign countries and six continents. 


Derek Chollet is executive vice president and senior advisor for security and defense policy at GMF. Before joining GMF, he served as U.S. assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs and held a number of senior positions at the White House and U.S. State Department. His forthcoming book is The Middle Way: How Three Presidents Shaped America’s Role in the World.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

How Maine won the first rounds against Covid-19

Maine, knock on wood, has weathered the pandemic better than most states, sometimes ranking 50th of the states in key metrics like new infections per capita. The disease can come back in a flash -- an outbreak tied to an illegal indoor wedding reception for 65 in the northern Maine town of Millinocket has infected at least 60 people in three counties and killed one woman who wasn't even there -- but Maine has done something right these past five months. 

In this week's Maine Sunday Telegram I explored what the factors were behind Maine's successful flattening of the initial surge, the fading away of a second surge in May, and the absence of a summer explosion as the state reopened its economy and tourists came here in large numbers. The conclusions: a combination of good policy, broad citizen compliance, fortunate geography, and some dumb luck early on.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Talking UNION with New Books Network

I recently sat down, virtually, with Diana DePasquale, instructor and doctoral candidate in American Studies at Bowling Green State University, to discuss my new book, Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood for, appropriately enough, the New Books Network podcast. 

How do we hold the United States together? How did we do it in the past? Where did our story of national purpose, self-definition, and origins come from? All the answers herein.

The episode is now available over at Apple or wherever you get your podcasts.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Speaking on Maine's formative history (virtually), August 20 via Biddeford Pool Summer Speaker Series

This Thursday, August 20, I'll be speaking on, well, why Maine and Mainers are they way they are and how events centuries ago shaped our fundamental, postcolonial character.It's the subject of my second book, The Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators and the Struggle for a Forgotten Frontier, as well as this spring's special series "Colony" in the Maine Sunday Telegram

The event is the final installment of the 2020 Summer Speaker Series hosted each year by the Biddeford Pool Union Church here in Maine. Unfortunately the pandemic has made this and so many other events impossible to hold in person, but it's going digital, which means anyone, anywhere can join. Kicks off at 7pm, but you do need to register. 

Details can be found on this poster at the Union Church's website. Here's the key bit: 

"To register for the Series, contact Elaine Robinson, 283-1398, or You will receive an email with Zoom call information. Donations gratefully accepted. 100% of proceeds benefit charities such as Seeds of Hope, Stone Soup Food Pantry, Ever After Mustang Rescue, and Saco Meals. Send check made out to “Union Church” with “Speaker Series” in subject line to UC Treasurer, PO Box 344, Biddeford Pool ME 04006." 

Other upcoming virtual events include: 
September 1, German Marshall Fund of the United States (on my new book, Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood

September 7, Jesup Library of Bar Harbor, Maine (ditto.) 

September 8, Schoodic Institute, Winter Harbor, Maine (on Maine's past, present, and future) 

September 23, Boston Athenaeum (on Union)

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Reviewing Eric Posner's "The Demagogue's Playbook" in the Washington Post

In today's Sunday Washington Post, I review University of Chicago Law School professor Eric Posner's new book on demagogues and the American presidency. For someone who studied international relations -- and, thus, demagogues, at Chicago in the mid-1990s, it's sobering to stop and realize that the same forces we once analyzed in the "backward East" of Europe and now being analyzed again because they are at work undermining democracy and rule of law in our own country, with horrific stakes.

The Demagogue's Playbook: The Battle for American Democracy from The Founders to Trump argues that only two true demagogues have reached the White House in the history of the United States: Andrew Jackson and Donald Trump. What's that mean and why should you care? Read on.

The last book I reviewed for the Post was Donald Kettl's new book on federalism, The Divided States of America.