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Ecstatic Nation

Confidence, Crisis, and Compromise, 1848-1877

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Description

For America, the mid-nineteenth century was an era of vast expectation and expansion: the country dreamed big, craved new lands, developed new technologies, and after too long a delay, finally confronted its greatest moral failure: slavery. Award-winning historian and literary critic Brenda Wineapple explores these feverish, ecstatic, conflicted years when Americans began to live within new and ever-widening borders, both spiritual and geographic; fought a devastating war over parallel ideals of freedom and justice; and transformed their country, at tragic cost, from a confederation into one nation, indivisible.

Populated by idiosyncratic, unforgettable characters such as P. T. Barnum, Walt Whitman, George Armstrong Custer, Horace Greeley, and Jefferson Davis, Ecstatic Nation moves from the vehement debates about slavery through the devastations of the Civil War and its aftermath. It explores the terrible complexities of Reconstruction and the fledgling hope that women would share equally in a new definition of American citizenship, and it traces the lust for land and the lure of its beauty from a frenzied rush to riches to the displacement of Indians. And it looks forward—toward the promise of a more perfect Union for all.

A masterful synthesis of political, cultural, and intellectual history, breathtaking in sweep and scope, Ecstatic Nation is a spellbinding tale of America—its glory and greed, its aspirations and humiliations—in this exhilarating and momentous period.

Publishers Weekly Review

May 13, 2013 – This lavish record of the eventful decades surrounding the Civil War explores a divided nation through the personalities of its growing and ideologically diversifying populace. Lincoln emerges as the iconic celebrity of the era’s central conflict, but the real stars are the supporting characters. Politicians, poets, slaves, slave holders, transcendentalists, Mormons, women’s suffragists, and Native American chiefs are just some of the colorful characters who run the gamut from “prolific and daring and conventional” to “spare and iron-willed” and “excessive and homegrown.” Acclaimed biographer Wineapple (White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award) gracefully choreographs a staggering number of primary sources, weaving disparate voices together into one revelatory thread. In her depiction of the bloodshed of the Civil War, she eschews “statistics defy comprehension,” focusing instead on specific scenes and personal stories that capture the magnitude of a pivotal moment before fleshing them out with analyses of contemporaneous reactions. The result reads like a series of biographies-in-miniature, a marvelous survey of both familiar and unsung American stories, contextualized and framed within one sweeping canvas. This is sure to enrich any reader’s understanding of the complicated history of Civil War–era America. Agent: Lynn Nesbit, Janklow & Nesbit.

Customer Reviews

Engrossing social history!

Wineapple's book is superb. It weaves factual history with a wealth of social and political currents, and thereby illuminates the context in which events happen. For me it's been a great complement to Doris Kearns Goodwin's A TEAM OF RIVALS, which is more exclusively focused on personalities.

Highly recommended for history buffs, Americanists, and anyone who wants to fill in how the regional tensions within the US got to be the way they are now. And extremely well written!

Ecstatic Nation
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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: United States
  • Published: Aug 06, 2013
  • Publisher: Harper
  • Seller: HarperCollins
  • Print Length: 736 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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