528 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 21 halftones, notes, bibl., index
Littlefield History of the Civil War Era
A New History of Reconstruction
A 2016 Choice Outstanding Academic Title
For a generation, scholarship on the Reconstruction era has rightly focused on the struggles of the recently emancipated for a meaningful freedom and defined its success or failure largely in those terms. In The Ordeal of the Reunion, Mark Wahlgren Summers goes beyond this vitally important question, focusing on Reconstruction's need to form an enduring Union without sacrificing the framework of federalism and republican democracy. Assessing the era nationally, Summers emphasizes the variety of conservative strains that confined the scope of change, highlights the war's impact and its aftermath, and brings the West and foreign policy into an integrated narrative. In sum, this book offers a fresh explanation for Reconstruction's demise and a case for its essential successes as well as its great failures. Indeed, this book demonstrates the extent to which the victors’ aims in 1865 were met--and at what cost.
Summers depicts not just a heroic, tragic moment with equal rights advanced and then betrayed but a time of achievement and consolidation, in which nationhood and emancipation were placed beyond repeal and the groundwork was laid for a stronger, if not better, America to come.
“Effectively captures the turmoil and frustrations of the era. . . . [and] shows how economic woes affected Reconstruction’s prospects.”
"A new narrative of the period featuring novel interpretations and sparkling insight."
--North Carolina Historical Review
“No short review can do this rich book justice.”
--Arkansas Historical Quarterly
“Skillfully written and a benefit to students, scholars, and those fascinated with the postwar years.”
--Southwestern Historical Quarterly
“Summers’s rich and careful new history of Reconstruction stands out in a crowded field....[His] mastery of the sources has allowed him to write an impressively thorough history of the period, and to pull together diverse strains with uncommon sophistication.”
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