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What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 (Oxford History of the United States) Paperback – September 23, 2009

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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford History of the United States
  • Paperback: 928 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (September 23, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195392434
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195392432
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 2 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (159 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,814 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In the latest installment in the Oxford History of the United States series, historian Howe, professor emeritus at Oxford University and UCLA (The Political Culture of the American Whigs), stylishly narrates a crucial period in U.S. history—a time of territorial growth, religious revival, booming industrialization, a recalibrating of American democracy and the rise of nationalist sentiment. Smaller but no less important stories run through the account: New York's gradual emancipation of slaves; the growth of higher education; the rise of the temperance movement (all classes, even ministers, imbibed heavily, Howe says). Howe also charts developments in literature, focusing not just on Thoreau and Poe but on such forgotten writers as William Gilmore Simms of South Carolina, who helped create the romantic image of the Old South, but whose proslavery views eventually brought his work into disrepute. Howe dodges some of the shibboleths of historical literature, for example, refusing to describe these decades as representing a market revolution because a market economy already existed in 18th-century America. Supported by engaging prose, Howe's achievement will surely be seen as one of the most outstanding syntheses of U.S. history published this decade. 30 photos, 6 maps. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Both academics and lay readers praised What Hath God Wrought, but they appreciated it for different reasons. It is certainly an exhaustively researched and well-written historical survey—exactly what a volume in the Oxford History Series ought to be. American historians admired its elegant synthesis but also understood that Howe is attempting to lead his readers and colleagues away from the strictly economic explanations that have often dominated writing on this period. Historian Jill Lepore, for example, thought that the change in perspective helps Howe subtly explain many aspects of the period, such as the women’s rights movement. Only historian Glenn C. Altschuler believed that Howe has some "axioms to grind" in his reworking of so-called Jacksonian Democracy. Howe’s approach also brings nonacademic readers back into the conversation, though at over 900 pages, the book is probably best suited for history buffs.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Daniel Walker Howe is Rhodes Professor of American History Emeritus, Oxford University and Professor of History Emeritus, University of California, Los Angeles. What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 won the Pulitzer Prize for History, the New-York Historical Society American History Book Prize, the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic Book Prize, and the Silver Medal of the California Book Awards, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He is also the author of The Political Culture of the American Whigs and Making the American Self: Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln. He lives in Los Angeles.

Customer Reviews

This book is well written, engaging, and informative.
Shaun Starbuck
Howe's book shows an extraordinary amount of thought and learning, with extensive footnotes on every page and a detailed bibliographical essay at the conclusion.
Robin Friedman
This book is a great addition to what is the best series in American history.
Dan Graves

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

276 of 285 people found the following review helpful By Shawn S. Sullivan on October 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What Hath God Wrought, the latest entry into the marvelous series, The Oxford History of the United States, by Daniel Walker Howe, is another major score for readers and historians alike. It is well a thought out, broad in scope, interesting in concept and a very readable narrative of the United States from the end of the War of 1812 (1815) to the end of the Mexican American War (1848). Howe's subtitle, "The Transformation of America" is proven in an interdisciplinary way throughout its pages. Perhaps the editor, David M. Kennedy, puts it best, "Like Tocqueville's (Democracy in America), his deepest subject in not simply politics - though the pages that follow do full justice to the tumultuous and consequential politics of the era - but the entire array of economic, technological, social, cultural, and even psychological developments that were beginning to shape a distinctively American national identity. Howe brings to bear an impressive command of modern scholarship to explicate topics as varied as the Mexican War; the crafting of the Monroe Doctrine and the clash with Britain over the Oregon country; the emergence of the Whig, Free Soil, and Republican Parties; the Lone Star revolution in Texas and the gold rush in California; the sectional differentiation of the American economy; the accelerating pace of both mechanical and cultural innovations, not least as they affected the organization of the household and the lives of women; and the emergence of a characteristic American literature in the works of writers like Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, James Fenimore Cooper, Margaret Fuller, Frederick Douglass, and Walt Whitman.Read more ›
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89 of 99 people found the following review helpful By MarkK VINE VOICE on October 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The decades following the War of 1812 witnessed some of the most dramatic developments in our nation's history. In that time, the United States underwent political, economic, and social transformations that profoundly reshaped the country, taking it from its post-colonial beginnings and setting it on the road towards its dynamic emergence in the world. Daniel Walker Howe's book is a narrative of these years and the changes that took place, as well as what those changes meant to the future of the country.

Though Howe examines nearly every aspect of the period, politics dominate his coverage, which is understandable given his background as a political historian. The figure of Andrew Jackson looms large in these pages, yet Howe rejects any characterization of the era as "Jacksonian", arguing that the phrase glosses over his controversial and divisive nature. This controversy is reflected well within his account, as Howe is highly critical of Jackson (something that is somewhat predictable from the start given that his book is dedicated to the memory of John Quincy Adams), asserting that the seventh president demonstrated an authoritarian bent throughout his career. His arguments on this, as with so many other parts of the books, are convincing, and supported by an impressive command of the scholarship on the period. Nor is the author shy on asserting his own viewpoint in these debates, arguing that a "communications revolution" was more demonstrable than the "market revolution" seen by Charles Sellers and others, that the emergence of the market economy was not the negative development Sellers made it out to be, and that Jackson's campaigns were hardly the democracy-expanding force asserted by historians such as Sean Wilentz.
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50 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Eric Hobart VINE VOICE on December 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As other reviewers have mentioned, the book is necessarily heavy on political history, though this book is not the tale of the rise and fall of political parties or politicians. Instead, Howe has chosen to evaluate American society largely through a political lens - in fact, he has chosen six major actors to play leading roles in his story: Andrew Jackson, J.Q. Adams, Henry Clay, James K. Polk, John Calhoun, & Daniel Webster.

Although he focuses largely on the achievements (or, in some cases the failures) of these men, he does not ignore society as a whole, nor does he ignore military endeavors, such as the Mexican War and the participants in that conflict.

All told, this is an excellent synthesis of the period. Professor Howe has demonstrated an extraordinary command of the secondary literature of the period, while incorporating many works of recent scholarship (especially the last 10 years). I was very impressed as I read the book with Howe's skillful weaving of a narrative loosely coupled by the theme of a communications revolution, which is much different than many other works pertaining to this period, which focus almost exclusively on the economic transformation that took place in this period.

I was equally impressed with Howe's command of the entire nation; unlike many books about this period, he did not sectionalize the book; by not focusing on just the Southern US, or just the Eastern seaboard, he allows the reader to understand the whole picture.

This is a worthy addition to any library of one who is intrigued by US History, even if that reader is not a 19th century specialist. I would even encourage professors to consider assigning this as a basic text (despite the fact that it is a rather lenghty tome at 860+ pages) for an upper level survey of Jacksonian America. It is a much appreciated addition to the Oxford History of the United States series.
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