One of the oldest and most familiar tropes in the historiography of the American Civil War argues that the conflict posed an urban industrial Union against a rural agricultural Confederacy.
The mention of the Southern plantation tends to bring to mind one of two competing images: either the white-columned antebellum mansion and its manicured grounds, or the desolate home of African-American sharecroppers in the post-Civil War era.
It is common for historians of the antebellum, civil war, and reconstruction-era United States to talk of ‘the Northeast’, ‘the South’, or ‘the West’ as offhand for a wide range of interests, like the Confederacy, slaveholders, or industrial capitalism.
In Commons Democracy, literary scholar Dana Nelson offers an alternative history of democracy in Revolutionary America. Nelson challenges the comforting narrative Americans like to tell themselves about the ‘Founders’ high-minded ideals and their careful crafting of the sage framework for democracy – a representative republican government’ (p. 3).
Imagine the surprise of Henry Rowe Schoolcraft when, on a humid July day in 1846, he picked up a copy of the Albany Argus, a New York state Democratic Party newspaper, only to learn that he had been murdered. The paper carried an obituary which reported that Schoolcraft had been shot in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan by a ‘half breed’ named John Tanner.
The years from 1840 to 1890 constituted a ‘golden age’ of turn out in American elections. Although only white men were assured of their votes, this period saw the highest rate of political participation among the eligible electorate, with roughly 70–80 per cent of voters casting ballots in Presidential elections; as compared to today’s figure of about 55 per cent.
Despite the back cover declaring Lloyd Gardner’s The War on Leakers ‘the essential backstory to understand the Snowden case, NSA eavesdropping, and the future of privacy’, and its subtitle promising a study ‘from Eugene V. Debs to Edward Snowden,’ it would be inaccurate to describe this book as a historical work.
Benjamin Franklin in London is a narrative biography of the American ‘founding father’ Benjamin Franklin. As the title suggests, the book substantively concentrates on Franklin in London between 1757 and 1775. During this time, Franklin was an agent advocating colonial interests in Parliament.
Does any political formation dominate its century of American history the way the New Deal dominates the 20th? Almost as soon as Franklin Roosevelt’s Brain Trust convened, the earlier Progressive movement was revised into the status of forerunner; for decades after the New Deal order began to disintegrate in the late 1960s, Americans lived in its historical debris.
Given the volume of recent works produced on the anti-slavery movement of the 19th–century Atlantic world, it was time for someone to create a new synthesis. Manisha Sinha’s The Slave’s Cause is a synthetic work that traces the long trajectory of the anti-slavery movement in the United States and places it into an international context.