What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 (The Oxford History of the United States, Vol. 5)
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
Books with Buzz
Discover the latest buzz-worthy books, from mysteries and romance to humor and nonfiction. Explore more
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Frequently bought together
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Anyone who understands cognitive behavior will quickly identify Howe's state of mind writing about "weapons of mass destruction" in a fashion specific to the post-Gulf War years. It is perhaps the greatest measure of what a farce this historical abstract becomes that the readers are left to make allowances for the hallucinations of the alleged subject matter expert who authored the book. Read the other reviews of this book and gasp at the breadth of critics repeatedly citing Howe's shortcomings for such a task.
The reputation of the Oxford U.S. History series has been tarnished by Howe's volume. Readers are warned to carefully read reviews of its other volumes before making a choice on such a series of dubious editorial quality.
I can see how some would get a negative impression of this book and believe it is entirely a polemic against Jacksonian Democrats or how others might get a heavily negative impression of the United States, but it's important to remember that Howe reminds us:
"We should not forget that economic development brought benefits as well, and not only in material ways. Improved transportation and communications, promoting economic diversification, widened people’s horizons, encouraged greater equality within family relationships, and fostered the kind of commitments to education and the rule of law exemplified by Abraham Lincoln. Accordingly, economic development did not undercut American democracy but broadened and enhanced it—which is reassuring for developing countries today."
What Hath God Wrought is a long book at 928 pages, but well worth reading. It's well documented and I like that Howe includes how Historians view and have interpreted what happened in his text. He also tells the story through personalities - and not just the personalities of politicians, but religious, business, and civic personalities who helped drive the era. It's important to have a good understanding of how our country developed to help move it forward through the future. Knowing where you've been, what you've gone through, and how you did it informs where you're going, what you'll be going through, and how to do it. While the Jacksonian Democrats and Trump Republicans aren't analogous, there are enough parallels between Jackson and Trump in particular for this to be a part of our History that there is much to learn from.
Top international reviews
This volume of the Oxford History of the United States sits between two of the greatest books of American history ever published - Gordon S Wood's' Empire of Liberty' and James McPherson's 'Battlecry of Freedom' - the former one of the most masterful surveys of the early republic and the second the greatest single volume on the civil war. Howe's book should be a beautifully constructed bridge between them, instead it is an idiosyncratic, meandering trail which goes way off course and only comes back to the point after exhausting the reader with detour and unnecessary anecdote.
I have two main issues with the book: the first is the author's bizarre attachment to one of the most inconsequential presidents in US history - John Quincey Adams - and his persistent attempts to shoehorn in Quncey's views or words, or even those of his descendants, when they are not merely unneeded but distracting from the central narrative. The second issue is the author's style. He follows the frustrating trend among some modern historians of attempting to impose modern value judgements and commentary rather than drawing a contemporary picture of a vanished world. In doing this he distorts the motives and impugns the policy of successive presidents and secretaries of state with whom he disagrees. He also intersperses the central narrative with diversions on cultural and social themes that he uses to pass judgement on individual characters and at times whole people.
All this is a great shame because Howe is clearly a good historian, he just falls short of greatness by making the book too much about him and what he thinks about this period in American history rather than letting it and its inhabitants speak for themselves. When I'm reading a history book I don't want to know what the historian thinks,* I want to be able to immerse myself in another world, to understand their conflicts and disagreements as they themselves understood them, not have them interpreted for me by the author through the prism of his own prejudices and views. It's all a bit sophomoric.
* - Edward Gibbon could get away with this; very few others!
The Jacksonian Democrats can more easily be painted as villains due to their hardline anti-Native and pro-slavery policies, which Howe documents extensively. But even they enshrined principles that are now taken seen as cornerstones of American culture- acceptance of immigrants, support for democracy abroad, supporting the rugged individual over an elite. Despite being less in favour of internal improvements and infrastructure than the Federalists + Whigs, the Democrats also supported the concept of modernisation.
Sometimes reading epically large history books can become a rather onerous task but this book is beautifully written and does a such good job of moving around the various spheres of society (politics, the military, religion, women's rights, science etc) that it never becomes boring.
The author has also done a good job of giving the book a proper ending which can be tricky when writing about a period of time rather than a particular subject.
On the positive side, the political evolution and the choices that the American public faced during those years are made quite clear. America's white males had to choose between Democratic backwardness championned by the likes of Andrew Jackson and the progressive views of Henry Clay and John Quicy Adams.
The slaveowning South, who had the indecency to treat blacks like chattel, was able to count as a 3/5 citizen every slave (who coudn't vote, of course), thus controling the electoral college, House of Representatives and Executive. In essence, the slaveholding South held the reins and was able to reject any attempt at progress held dear by the industrial North.
That is quite clear reading the book. However, many pages are devoted to the Millenium, or, if you will, the Second Coming of Christ. It's hard to phantom that the Millenium had so much of an influence on daily politics and life. In any case, too much space is devoted to it.
I'd give the book a five 5 if it wasn't for the impressive amount of ink spent on it.