Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pg. 99: Daniel Walker Howe's "What Hath God Wrought"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Daniel Walker Howe's What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815 - 1848.

About the book, from the publisher:

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.
Among the praise for What Hath God Wrought:

"This authoritative addition to Oxford's "History of the United States" series is a product of synthesis and astute analysis... A worthy addition to public and academic institutions; beginning scholars will appreciate the maps and the extensive bibliographic essay, fleshed out by the journal citations in the footnotes. Highly recommended."
--Frederick J. Augustyn Jr., Library of Congress, Library Journal

"The range of American history between 1815 and 1848 does not conjure up any clear narrative to the casual reader, which is precisely why Daniel Walker Howe's What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America 1815-1848 promises to make a splash. An expert in the field, Mr. Howe has skillfully framed a story, between the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War, that becomes eloquent once you think about it. Lauded by other historians as an important yet accessible landmark, Mr. Howe's study promises odd new angles on America in an election year."
--The New York Sun

"What Hath God Wrought is probably the most culturally sensitive political history as well as the best politically informed social history ever written for this transformative period in American history. Its learning is vast, its judgments discerning, and its depiction of both triumphs and weaknesses of American civilization exceedingly well balanced. It is a splendid addition to a splendid series."
--Mark A. Noll, University of Notre Dame

"In the latest installment in the Oxford History of the United States series, historian Howe ... 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.... 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."
--Publishers Weekly, starred review

"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."
--The New Yorker

"The decades covered by this book wrought a profound transformation in American life. Expansion through annexation, purchase, and conquest doubled the size of the United States. A revolution in communications and transportation tied these vast expanses together and gave the economy a powerful impulse. The Second Great Awakening in American Protestantism generated a host of reform movements that reshaped the political landscape. Daniel Walker Howe has chronicled these progressive but unsettling changes in an exciting narrative that offers important new insights on these crucial decades."
--James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom

Read more about What Hath God Wrought at the Oxford University Press website.

Daniel Walker Howe is Rhodes Professor of American History Emeritus at Oxford University and Professor of History Emeritus at UCLA. He lives in Sherman Oaks, California.

The Page 99 Test: What Hath God Wrought.

--Marshal Zeringue