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The Early American Republic, 1789-1829 Hardcover – March 9, 2006
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"This is a highly readable, nicely fleshed-out distillation of key themes and developments in the early republic, most notably the new nation's transformation from an (ideally) orderly republic to a tumultuous democracy and from a 'colonial' economy dependent on exports to a more 'developed' economy with strong internal markets. It makes sense of Americans' hopes and expectations coming out of the ratification period and provides a map for navigating the economic, social, and political developments not only up to 1829, but also afterwards."--Kirsten Wood, Florida International University
"This text, written by a master historian and incorporating the outpouring of research on the New Republic from the last two decades, should prove very useful. Johnson's scholarship is impeccable."--Lawrence Peskin, Morgan University
"No other work I can think of would provide as clear or as quick an introduction."--Christopher Clark, University of Warwick, U.K.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
Paul E. Johnson is at University of South Carolina.
Top customer reviews
In this wonderful short book Johnson explains how everything changed in a single generation. Thirty years after ratifying the Constitution, the US had a stable political order, a population more than four times larger than at Independence, a vastly larger territorial base, and a totally different political culture in which average white men were the freest, most empowered on earth. Women and particularly Black people and Indians lost tremendous ground over the same period, as slavery boomed and the society turned hard toward a mercantile, commercial identity based on gaining individual wealth often at the expense of others or the larger community.
And that is just one example from this marvelous, thought-provoking book. Essential reading!
Paul E. Johnson is a professor emeritus at the University of South Carolina. His area of specialty has been the Early Republic. This book is a condensation of that specialty. I find it is a good book to work with in teaching students in conjunction with interactive lesson plans. It is comprised of six chapters that segment the periods into neat topics. Federalists, Jeffersonians, Jacksonians, and the changes in the North and South as the result of industrialization and cotton form the core of the chapters. Something I always point out to my students in our survey class is that they need to look at the US at two points in the class.
The first is 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was approved and the nation born. The second is 1863 when Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address and utters the words, “Fourscore and seven years ago.” I ask them to list the changes that took place between those dates. Then I ask them to date each change so that they have an idea when the changes took place. Invariably the changes take place in the early 18th century with many of them listed in the 1820s. It is hard to place specific dates to the changes, but a general consensus of approximate change is possible. What that shows is the changes originated earlier and became apparent to many by the 1820s. The process of change is mainly from 1789 to 1829, a span of 40 years in which the US was literally transformed so much that many of the people from 1789 who were still alive marveled at the transformation.
Johnson’s book goes a long way to helping illustrate the change. While it does not go into the greater depth many monographs do, it does serve as a primer on the period. When used with other resources, I have found the book to be very effective in delivering information to the students. It does have some faults which I think hurt it as a textbook supplement. One is that it lacks many illustrations and maps which I find are important in helping students identify pieces of the past. Many students are visual learners and the lack of illustrations really limits their ability to learn on a deeper level.
Strengths of the book are in the text and the sources used by Johnson. A good teacher always points to those sources to back up what is being taught. I continuously point out sources to students so they understand where historians get their information from. This is something that I consider quite important. The validity of what is being taught rests on those sources. Johnson used good sources and it shows.
All in all, this is a good book when used as a primer for the period. For people who want to learn more about the period without slogging through myriad details and 800 plus pages of history, this book will be exactly what they want. If they want to go into deeper study of a particular event, they can use Johnson’s sources and work from there.