Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Rebirth of a Nation

You had mentioned this title, avrds. It covers the turbulent period between 1877 and 1920, seemingly from an industrial angle, although Lears appears to cover quite a bit of territory in the process:

Lears is at his inspired best when he discusses the anti-imperialist intellectuals such as Mark Twain, Jane Addams and William James, who rejected the fantasy of civilizing the Filipinos, as Twain put it, by way of "Maxim Guns and Hymn Books." Equally intriguing is Lears's treatment of the young cultural critic Randolph Bourne. During World War I, as most progressive intellectuals were seduced by the notion of regeneration by way of the bloodbath on the Western Front, Bourne remained "a champion of ambiguity." He stuck to his belief that the war would only produce state repression and inhumanity, famously observing: "War is the health of the state." "Rebirth of a Nation" is dazzling cultural history: smart, provocative and gripping. It is also a book for our times, historically grounded, hopeful and filled with humane, just and peaceful possibilities.


  1. I have this one coming. Would others be interested in reading this one next? Would certainly set the stage for TR.

  2. Here are a couple other odd balls I recently picked up:

    and this

  3. This book arrived yesterday, and think I'll start on it today until the group settles on another one. Hopefully it will be a good one.

  4. Look forward to your comments. I've read a couple books from that era including Brands' The Reckless Decade: America in the 1890s. It was a time of much speculation and as Blight noted in Race and Reunion the economic collapse of 1873 had a lot to do with the gutting of Reconstruction, as there was no longer the money to fund these efforts. But, the late 1890s was also the ferment for the Progressivism that took hold in the 20th century.

  5. My comments may be few and far between, Gintaras, since this book appears to be a bit of a slog (glad we didn't choose this one).

    But it is an interesting book generally to pick up after Goodwin since he is looking at the period after the Civil War, and the reunion of what he refers to as the white north and the white south -- thus the rebirth.

    Also he notes that after suffering through such a devastating war, Americans were looking for ways that war could reflect a higher calling.

    He has presented some interesting ideas in the opening -- it may take me awhile to get to them all, however. (Just in case, I'm also bringing Lion in the White House about Roosevelt on the airplane).

  6. Interesting to me in reading some of the reviews of books that pick up the Post-Reconstruction theme is that many chart the Progressive Movement's origins to Reconstruction times. I always thought it came later with the rise of William Jennings Bryan, but then it makes sense that Reconstruction served as a hotbed of radical and socialist thinking in regard to providing a greatere extent of social services to American citizens, although I would say that Progressivism came into being with the next generation.

  7. That's exactly where this book is headed, I think.

    And I take back my negative first impression. Once I got past the introduction where he sets out his thesis, it's really interesting. And it picks up with reconstruction, so it's like a more academic follow-up to Goodwin.

    I'll try to post more from it as I have time.