A Student of History

November 8, 2007

Lepore on “What Hath God Wrought”

Filed under: Early America,New books — John Maass @ 11:47 am

In a previous post, I noted the publication of Daniel Walker Howe’s new book, “What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848” (Oxford; $35).  It is part of the Oxford History of the US series, now (hopefully) coming to completion.

Jill Lepore

In The New Yorker, Jill Lepore has a review of this massive tome.  She says:

“What Hath God Wrought” is both a capacious narrative of a tumultuous era in American history and a heroic attempt at synthesizing a century and a half of historical writing about Jacksonian democracy, antebellum reform, and American expansion.

Here is the publisher’s own description of this book:

The Oxford History of the United States is by far the most respected multi-volume history of our nation. The series includes two Pulitzer Prize winners, two New York Times bestsellers, and winners of the Bancroft and Parkman Prizes. Now, in What Hath God Wrought , historian Daniel Walker Howe illuminates the period from the battle of New Orleans to the end of the Mexican-American War, an era when the United States expanded to the Pacific and won control over the richest part of the North American continent. 

Howe’s panoramic narrative portrays revolutionary improvements in transportation and communications that accelerated the extension of the American empire. Railroads, canals, newspapers, and the telegraph dramatically lowered travel times and spurred the spread of information. These innovations prompted the emergence of mass political parties and stimulated America’s economic development from an overwhelmingly rural country to a diversified economy in which commerce and industry took their place alongside agriculture. In his story, the author weaves together political and military events with social, economic, and cultural history. He examines the rise of Andrew Jackson and his Democratic party, but contends that John Quincy Adams and other Whigs–advocates of public education and economic integration, defenders of the rights of Indians, women, and African-Americans–were the true prophets of America’s future. He reveals the power of religion to shape many aspects of American life during this period, including slavery and antislavery, women’s rights and other reform movements, politics, education, and literature. Howe’s story of American expansion culminates in the bitterly controversial but brilliantly executed war waged against Mexico to gain California and Texas for the United States.  By 1848 America had been transformed. What Hath God Wrought provides a monumental narrative of this formative period in United States history.

Daniel Walker Howe is Rhodes Professor of American History Emeritus, Oxford University and Professor of History Emeritus, University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of The Political Culture of the American Whigs and Making the American Self: Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln .

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1 Comment »

  1. […] Filed under: Early America, New books — John Maass @ 1:48 pm Following up on my prior post on Daniel Walker Howe’s What Hath God Wrought, the newest volume in the Oxford “History […]

    Pingback by More on Howe « A Student of History — November 15, 2007 @ 1:48 pm | Reply


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