Journalist Colin Woodard has done something similar, recounting continental North American history by describing the component regions and people in terms of eleven distinct groupings. For the record, in order of founding, his labels are El Norte, New France, Tidewater, Yankeedom, New Netherland, Deep South, Midlands, Greater Appalachia, Left Coast and Far West. American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America is certainly thought provoking, especially since Woodard projects his lens forward as well as backward, playing with possibly scenarios that might include rearranging political boundaries to more comfortably organize our cultures.
For a taste of this, here's how Woodard frames the United State's most violent internal clash:
Contrafactual history is fun, but what happened happened and here we are.
To a considerable extent the value of looking at history through this sort of typology depends on whether cultural patterns that may have predominated in one place and time persist over time -- and human migration. Woodard says they do:
Well maybe. But he hedges by pointing out that by closely examining any particular region you can find pockets more like other regions ... if you carry that process of really digging into the data far enough, do his "national cultures" survive examination? If you look closely enough, do all generalizations about groupings fail? I'm skeptical about Woodard's methodology, but that doesn't mean that at the sweeping level of generalization at which he opines, he is not mining a fertile perspective.
Where Woodard's schema really does historical truth a disservice is in its treatment of the African-American experience in the U.S. Most African Americans came to the continent as slaves; most have their ancestry in Woodard's Deep South, a region defined by whites' response to an enslaved black majority. And since the Deep South's authoritarian caste system was created to ward off a slave revolt, the Black people of this subdivision of the country end up in this book treated as non-actors without a nation. The rich history of Black survival and of acts of rebellion disappear in this telling because they would muddy the picture of Deep South. At best, Blacks contributed some cultural embellishments:
I don't know where Woodard thinks Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King Jr. came from. Yes, I know some Black people who have generations of ancestry in Yankeedom and Midland areas, but they are still Black in a way that transcends region in their own eyes and in the eyes of their neighbors. Moreover, perhaps Woodard might be faulted for omitting one additional North American "nation" whose members have a distinct culture: people of African descent from the Caribbean whose culture both in the islands and in the States is different again from that of people whose ancestors were from the Deep South.
I've demonstrated that it doesn't take much effort to pick away at this book's thesis. And I don't think the country is likely to break up and reconfigure borders any time soon as Woodard speculates. But, like the polling models I encounter in campaigns, this sort of project does make for interesting and occasionally useful thought experiments. If you read it, bring along lots of salt.