The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896 (Oxford History of the United States)

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9780190053765: The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896 (Oxford History of the United States)
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The Oxford History of the United States is the most respected multivolume history of the American nation. In the newest volume in the series, The Republic for Which It Stands, acclaimed historian Richard White offers a fresh and integrated interpretation of Reconstruction and the Gilded Age as the seedbed of modern America.

At the end of the Civil War the leaders and citizens of the victorious North envisioned the country's future as a free-labor republic, with a homogenous citizenry, both black and white. The South and West were to be reconstructed in the image of the North. Thirty years later Americans occupied an unimagined world. The unity that the Civil War supposedly secured had proved ephemeral. The country was larger, richer, and more extensive, but also more diverse. Life spans were shorter, and physical well-being had diminished, due to disease and hazardous working conditions. Independent producers had become wage earners. The country was Catholic and Jewish as well as Protestant, and increasingly urban and industrial. The "dangerous" classes of the very rich and poor expanded, and deep differences ― ethnic, racial, religious, economic, and political ― divided society. The corruption that gave the Gilded Age its name was pervasive.

These challenges also brought vigorous efforts to secure economic, moral, and cultural reforms. Real change ― technological, cultural, and political ― proliferated from below more than emerging from political leadership. Americans, mining their own traditions and borrowing ideas, produced creative possibilities for overcoming the crises that threatened their country.

In a work as dramatic and colorful as the era it covers, White narrates the conflicts and paradoxes of these decades of disorienting change and mounting unrest, out of which emerged a modern nation whose characteristics resonate with the present day.

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Review:

Fearless and peerless, Richard White leads us through a transformed and fragmented nation in turmoil, haunted by the slain Abraham Lincoln, where visions of freedom and equality were rapidly vanishing. In the rural South, in the urban North, and out West, from the terribly destitute to the stupendously wealthy, White brings together stories that historians have long told separately, untangling the anger and blame that grew so deeply entrenched in the Gilded Age. How did all this happen? Richard White explains everything. (Martha Hodes, author of Mourning Lincoln)

Richard White has given us a brilliantly imagined narrative of astonishing breadth, thickly peopled with figures from familiar political lions to Lizzie Borden, Dorothy and Toto, that brings to vivid life one of the most challenging periods of American history. His is a twisting, often violent and above all ironic story of a nation finding its way from a time of both tragedy and optimism to one of prodigious wealth and colossal energy, of deepening divisions of class, blood, and ideas, of new meanings of everything from government to geographical space, and of a shaken, tempered faith in the century ahead. This is a masterful performance. (Elliott West, author of The Last Indian War)

Richard White offers a remarkable new synthesis of the decades following the Civil War, showing the myriad ways in which a period about which most modern Americans know too little in fact laid the foundations for the nation we know today. This book will change the ways we think not just about the past, but about the present as well. (William Cronon, author of Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West)

The Republic for Which It Stands illuminates every key aspect of the industrializing, expanding nation in the final third of the nineteenth century: racial, ecological, legal, political, economic, and cultural. In lucid, witty, and often dramatic prose, Richard White makes sense of them all in a way that powerfully echoes the inequalities and environmental degradation of our own day. Yet he also captures the mighty appeal of the developing capitalist economy that was becoming the envy of the world. This is the best book on the Gilded Age that has ever been written. (Michael Kazin, author of War Against War: The American Fight for Peace, 1914-1918)

This is a marvelous achievement of narrative history by a great historian. Written with immense learning, wit, indignation, fearless judgments, and imagination, the book will stand up for a long time as a new vision of two eras with reputation problems. White masterfully weaves the metaphor of the 'vanished twin' through the book and persuasively makes 'home' a central theme binding all Americans of every class or race: as dream, as reality, as racial and gendered place, and as politics. This is not your grandaddy's Gilded Age, although corruption - lots of it - oozes from the story. It is powerful and readable history that exudes all the 'hallmarks of modernity' we have claimed and soberingly invokes our own grave political moment. What 'vanished' is nothing less than the meaning of Union victory and the world the first Republican party struggled to achieve. White is our Mark Twain with archival authority and footnotes. (David W. Blight, Yale University)

The Oxford History of the United States continues to surpass expectations with this latest contribution. For many Americans, Reconstruction is still remembered as a period of racial anarchy, political failure, and the humiliation of the defeated South. This volume presents detailed knowledge of what actually happened in the South between 1865 and 1876 and the years that followed. It is sometimes an inspiring but more often deeply shocking story that reveals a nation at its best and worst, when newly freed slaves and idealists, both black and white, struggled to preserve the rights Union armies had won on the battlefield and that Republican members of Congress affirmed in the years after the Civil War. (Frank J. Williams, President of The Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library and Association)

The conclusion of the Civil War through the 1890s marked the transformation of the US from a rural and agrarian society of free laborers to a modern, urban, industrial nation where wages and possessions replaced liberty and individualism. White's rich, sweeping history chronicles the divide between the Radical Republicans (today's Libertarians) and those who saw the need for governmental protection of individual rights. White seamlessly incorporates political, economic, social, and legal history to show the birth of the modern US. Throughout, he includes fascinating anecdotes that captivate readers. Highly recommended. (Choice)

The Republic for Which It Stands is a remarkably fresh and innovative way of looking at the Reconstruction and Gilded Age by an academic with unmatched academic credentials. No matter how much you have read on the Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, The Republic for Which It Stands has a lot to offer you. The Republic for Which It Stands should be a required part of any American history syllabus in all universities. (The Washington Book Review)

Stanford professor Richard White's The Republic for Which It Stands, a sweeping history of the United States from 1865 to 1896 that just published last month. It's 941 pages but beautifully written and a gripping narrative of a tumultuous era. (White was one of my favorite professors at Stanford. I took two of his classes.) (Washington Post)

There is almost nothing about the era that White fails to treat with intelligence and style,,,,Here is the constant American struggle, and Richard White has related a decisive part of its history with stamina and skill. (Sean Wilentz, The New York Times Book Review)

About the Author:

Richard White is Margaret Byrne Professor of American History at Stanford University. He is the author of numerous prize-winning books, including Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America; The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815; and "It's Your Misfortune and None of My Own": A New History of the American West. He is a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Mellon Distinguished Scholar Award, among other awards.

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