A massive history of the striving, riven new nation that emerged from the Civil War, extending to the turn of the century.
As an integral piece of Oxford’s History of the United States series, this comprehensive volume by distinguished scholar White (American History/Stanford Univ.; Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America, 2012, etc.), a MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellow, portrays the United States at a significant crossroads. Would Americans embrace the common ideals of the recently deceased president, Abraham Lincoln, which formed a moral foundation for the future, or would the nation descend into political corruption, avaricious corporations, backlash against immigrants, and increasing class conflict? White delineates how both occurred. Lincoln’s Republican Party was transformed during these years of Reconstruction, splitting between the Radicals and laissez-faire liberals, essentially divided over how overbearing the federal government would be—yet all were committed to larger goals of nationalism, free labor, and contract freedom. While the Radicals were pushing for vigorous federal powers in the protection of freedmen’s rights, President Andrew Johnson, and the recalcitrant South, pushed back to maintain “a white man’s republic.” Meanwhile, the nation was exploding with the innovations of “tinkerers” and mass immigration into the country. The conquest of Native Americans was completed by their acculturation and assimilation, with the reservations governed by religious leaders who knew no more about administration than the military did. As an astute historian of the American West, White offers important scholarship on the “Greater Reconstruction”—i.e., conquering the West by bold federal policies like the railway acts and land grant legislation that created new infrastructure and schools and offered free farms for those able to work the land. At the same time, reformers pushed for enormously important social changes. Wage labor, wealth inequality, and immigration created class conflict that erupted in strikes in the late 1880s, while the concept of “home” took on new significance for whites and blacks alike.
A highly qualified historian offers a dense, sweeping history of a nation on the move.