The story of Reconstruction is not simply about the rebuilding of the South after the Civil War. Instead, the late nineteenth century defined modern America, as Southerners, Northerners, and Westerners gradually hammered out a national identity that united three regions into a country that could become a world power. Ultimately, the story of Reconstruction is about how a middle class formed in America and how its members defined what the nation would stand for, both at home and abroad, for the next century and beyond.
A sweeping history of the United States from the era of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, this engaging book stretches the boundaries of our understanding of Reconstruction. Historian Heather Cox Richardson ties the North and West into the post-Civil War story that usually focuses narrowly on the South, encompassing the significant people and events of this profoundly important era.
By weaving together the experiences of real individuals--from a plantation mistress, a Native American warrior, and a labor organizer to Andrew Carnegie, Julia Ward Howe, Booker T. Washington, and Sitting Bull--who lived during the decades following the Civil War and who left records in their own words, Richardson tells a story about the creation of modern America.
This thoughtful, engaging examination of the Reconstruction Era began as a way for author and historian Richardson to understand the deep divide-over issues like taxes, size of government and the influence of special interests-that still separate "red states" from "blue states." Richardson's persuasive thesis is that the Reconstruction, rather than the Civil War itself, is the place to look for guidance through these thorny problems. Beginning with a dramatic retelling of General Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Va., Richardson immerses readers in the issues faced by Americans trying to restore the Union on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line. Although her research is primarily informed by a social approach to history, Richadrson strikes a fine balance between the everyman experience and the trials of famous leaders. And because Richardson views Reconstruction as fundamental to the shape of contemporary America, she makes this period not only engaging but utterly relevant. This title will be appealing, therefore, not only to those interested in 19th century American history or the Civil War, but also to anyone interested in the roots of present-day American politics.
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Yale University Press
April 30, 2008
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