Professor Walters (History, Johns Hopkins) offers concise summaries of such disparate movements as vegetarianism,...

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AMERICAN REFORMERS 1815-1860

Professor Walters (History, Johns Hopkins) offers concise summaries of such disparate movements as vegetarianism, evangelism, communalism, abolitionism, and temperance, which serve a limited purpose but, taken together, ultimately disappoint. For most readers, this work will replace Alice F. Tyler's encyclopedic Freedom's Ferment (1944) as the best single-volume presentation of antebellum reform. In contrast to Tyler, Walters' accounts of various reform activities benefit from the stimulating recent reinterpretations by such historians as David Rothman and Michael Katz. But the author's own assessments, though admirable in their balance, constitute a labored effort at understanding the reform motive. The volume's analyses--as opposed to its descriptions--fall into such bland and sometimes slapdash generalizations as ""The position [reform] held in a person's life depended greatly on whether one was a leader or a follower."" Some chapters, notably those on ""body reforms"" and organized labor, are not convincingly connected to underlying themes of antebellum reform, and might as well have been omitted. Pacificism is simply inadequately presented. A good introduction to the topic, but not much more.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 1978

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Hill & Wang/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1978