The Republic for Which It Stands

The Republic for Which It Stands

The United States During Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896

Book - 2017
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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.
Publisher: New York, NY : Oxford University Press, [2017]
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9780199735815
Branch Call Number: 973.8 Whi
Characteristics: xx, 941 pages : illustrations (some colour), maps ; 25 cm.


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Jan 12, 2018

A couple books read in the last year and current events made me want to look at this time in US history more fully. White’s book covers all the bases—the economy, politics, social movements, industrialization and changes in labor, personalities and the changing population not only of those who could now vote, but those who continued to be disenfranchised. My own farm family’s history as migrants and immigrants to Middle Border Kansas during this time was motivation to read this history. I had a grandmother and great-grandmother proud of their WCTU memberships.

What I learned will give me insights to think of my own family differently, that some of their prejudices about other religions or people of color were not uncommon; the WCTU was an organization for gender equity as much for temperance. White’s view that an ideal American in that time was thought to be white, from English or Northern European ancestors, Protestant and an independent farmer or small businessman who simply wanted to establish good homes in good communities fits my ancestors to a T. But, the devastating effects of that ideal on many immigrants, people of color and Native Americans is brilliantly told as is the corruption rampant in many walks of life and the belief still alive and well today that poor people have only themselves to blame. Someone reading this book with another purpose would without a doubt find another set of assumptions to spur their own thinking. Hefty book, lots to ponder. Not too scholarly.

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