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Creating a National Home: Building the Veterans' Welfare State, 1860-1900 Hardcover – August 1, 1997

5 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Editorial Reviews


The primary emphasis of [recent studies on veteran benefits] has been to examine the burgeoning system of military pensions and to neglect other forms of federal relief offered to Union veterans. We can be thankful that Patrick Kelly, in Creating a National Home, has stepped into the breach, and he remains among the few historians to subject to critical analysis the growth of veterans' homes in the United States. Kelly's work...concentrates on the formation and early years of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (NHDVS), a network of federal homes that, despite its genesis in nineteenth-century politics, basked in the glow of universal approval. Kelly wisely perceives that to understand the unexpected success of these institutions, one must look beyond partisan politics, as 'cultural values, meanings, and ideas' shape the parameters of social policy. His disciplined reflection on the factors contributing to the National Home's prestige is rooted in an exploration of the interconnections between nineteenth-century state and society.
--Judith G. Cetina (Journal of American History)

In this well-written and well-argued book, Patrick Kelly focuses on a somewhat less well known legacy of the Civil War: the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (NHDVS), the direct predecessor of today's Veteran's Administration...Kelley's work present a welcome addition to the growing body of literature on the emergence of an American welfare state in demonstrating both the accomplishments and the shortcomings of a novel set of policy initiatives designed to cope with the legacy of the Civil War.
--Thomas Goebel (H-Net Reviews)

In a graceful, clear, and analytically sophisticated fashion, this book explores the history of the founding and operation of a network of national 'soldiers' homes' for Union veterans after the Civil War. Kelly offers a careful demographic analysis of the residents as well as a discussion of the discipline and routines of life in the homes, their economic and cultural role in the local communities, and the political maneuverings involved in the placement of new homes. The work is informed by a series of interesting and intersecting arguments: that the soldiers' homes represented an important step in expanding the role of the state in post-Civil War America; that their promoters built support for them by drawing upon familiar and reassuring cultural motifs, notably the language of domesticity and 'home'; and that the homes' planners and managers contributed to the diffusion of positive images of the state by invoking wartime memories and by making the homes important cultural institutions in their communities.
--Paul Boyer, University of Wisconsin-Madison

A lively and well-documented book that fills an important niche in the history of the American welfare state. With gender figuring importantly in the analysis, the study advances current trends in welfare state historiography and historical sociology. Kelly does an excellent job of tracing the political debates leading up to and through the founding of the National Homes and evoking daily life in the institutions. He pays particular attention to their place in late nineteenth-century visual culture and makes interesting use of the sociological literature on 'total institutions' to analyze the psychological and social environment of the homes. This study is an important contribution to several fields of American history: welfare, politics, culture, and gender/masculinity. An excellent and original book.
--Sonya Michel, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Broken down in health and facing poverty and homelessness, 100,000 Union veterans sought refuge in a network of national soldiers' homes in the decades after the Civil War. In writing the history of this phenomenon, Kelly relates its development to a variety of important themes in current history and sociology...Clearly and cogently Kelly argues that the entitlements provided Civil War veterans enhanced the image of government, preparing the way for the dominant role of the federal bureaucracy in the 20th century. A model monograph, imaginative and wide-ranging, thoroughly researched in both primary and secondary sources, this work is highly recommended for academic libraries.
--P.F. Field (Choice)

About the Author

Patrick J. Kelly is Assistant Professor of Military History, University of Texas, San Antonio.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 250 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (August 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674175603
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674175600
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,434,405 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
The Civil War was a medical and social disaster of unprecedented proportions, the battle of Gettysburg, alone, producing more casualties than all previous American wars together. The victorious North, as unprepared and disorganized for the shattered human residue of battle as they had been in prosecuting the War, developed some surprisingly effective private relief measures and institutions, but political forces (and the sheer dimensions of the need) formed an irresistible force for the creation of Federal institutions for the care of the maimed and indigent veteran.
The resulting National Home for Disabled Volunteer (note, Union only) Soldiers, "a significant example of the state's capacity to assume a social welfare responsibility previously accepted on the local level", became an important cultural institution in nineteenth-century America and formed the groundwork for the later Veterans' Administration.

(The "score" rating is an unfortunately ineradicable feature of the page. This reviewer does not "score" books.)
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