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Throes of Democracy

Walter A. Mcdougall

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Description

"And then there came a day of fire!" From its shocking curtain-raiser—the conflagration that consumed Lower Manhattan in 1835—to the climactic centennial year of 1876, when Americans staged a corrupt, deadlocked presidential campaign (fought out in Florida), Walter A. McDougall's Throes of Democracy: The American Civil War Era, 1829-1877 throws off sparks like a flywheel. This eagerly awaited sequel to Freedom Just Around the Corner: A New American History, 1585-1828 carries the saga of the American people's continuous self-reinvention from the inauguration of President Andrew Jackson through the eras of Manifest Destiny, Civil War, and Reconstruction, America's first failed crusade to put "freedom on the march" through regime change and nation building.

But Throes of Democracy is much more than a political history. Here, for the first time, is the American epic as lived by Germans and Irish, Catholics and Jews, as well as people of British Protestant and African American stock; an epic defined as much by folks in Wisconsin, Kansas, and Texas as by those in Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia; an epic in which Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, showman P. T. Barnum, and circus clown Dan Rice figure as prominently as Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, and Henry Ward Beecher; an epic in which railroad management and land speculation prove as gripping as Indian wars. Walter A. McDougall's zesty, irreverent narrative says something new, shrewd, ironic, or funny about almost everything as it reveals our national penchant for pretense—a predilection that explains both the periodic throes of democracy and the perennial resilience of the United States.

Publishers Weekly Review

Jan 07, 2008 – The subtitle’s overextended claim that the Civil War era started in 1829 sets the tone for this hulking second volume (after Freedom Just Around the Corner) of Pulitzer-winner McDougall’s projected multivolume history of the U.S. The author tries both to deflate national pride and celebrate national progress in the era in which the nation spread across the continent, shattered in a war and came back together. He does so in an opinionated, breezy narrative that focuses on individuals—lesser known as well as famous, writers and thinkers as well as political and military leaders. But McDougall’s history is basically a traditional one about party conflicts, the westward course of empire, war, the Transcendentalists, frontier tensions, railroads, slavery, religious tensions and robber barons. You’d never know that a huge body of history on the real lives of 19th-century Americans had been produced in recent decades. Not many women appear, or Indians, slaves and freedmen, or working people, many of whom helped make the young democracy vital and tumultuous. McDougall’s strength lies in deflating cherished reputations, like de Tocqueville’s, and restoring others’, like pastor and intellectual Orestes Brownson’s. A pleasing romp through a critical period in the nation’s history, it sticks to the tried and true. 19 maps.
Throes of Democracy
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  • $14.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: United States
  • Published: Apr 07, 2009
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books
  • Seller: HarperCollins
  • Print Length: 816 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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