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Waking Giant
Cover of Waking Giant
Waking Giant
America in the Age of Jackson
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The years from 1815 to 1848 were arguably the richest period in American life. In Waking Giant, award-winning historian David S. Reynolds illuminates the era's exciting political story alongside the fascinating social and cultural movements that influenced it. He casts fresh light on Andrew Jackson, who redefined the presidency, as well as John Quincy Adams and James K. Polk, who expanded the nation's territory and strengthened its position internationally. Waking Giant captures the turbulence of a democracy caught in the throes of the slavery controversy, the rise of capitalism, and the birth of urbanization. Reynolds reveals unknown dimensions of the Second Great Awakening with its sects, cults, and self-styled prophets. He brings alive the reformers, abolitionists, and prohibitionists who struggled to correct America's worst social ills. He uncovers the political roots of some of America's greatest authors and artists, from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Edgar Allan Poe to Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand, and he re-creates the shocking phenomena that marked the age: bloody duels and violent mobs; Barnum's freaks and all-seeing mesmerists; polygamous prophets and wealthy prostitutes; table-lifting spiritualists and rabble-rousing feminists. All were crucial to the political and social ferment that led to the Civil War. Meticulously researched and masterfully written, Waking Giant is a brilliant chronicle of America's vibrant and tumultuous rise.
The years from 1815 to 1848 were arguably the richest period in American life. In Waking Giant, award-winning historian David S. Reynolds illuminates the era's exciting political story alongside the fascinating social and cultural movements that influenced it. He casts fresh light on Andrew Jackson, who redefined the presidency, as well as John Quincy Adams and James K. Polk, who expanded the nation's territory and strengthened its position internationally. Waking Giant captures the turbulence of a democracy caught in the throes of the slavery controversy, the rise of capitalism, and the birth of urbanization. Reynolds reveals unknown dimensions of the Second Great Awakening with its sects, cults, and self-styled prophets. He brings alive the reformers, abolitionists, and prohibitionists who struggled to correct America's worst social ills. He uncovers the political roots of some of America's greatest authors and artists, from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Edgar Allan Poe to Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand, and he re-creates the shocking phenomena that marked the age: bloody duels and violent mobs; Barnum's freaks and all-seeing mesmerists; polygamous prophets and wealthy prostitutes; table-lifting spiritualists and rabble-rousing feminists. All were crucial to the political and social ferment that led to the Civil War. Meticulously researched and masterfully written, Waking Giant is a brilliant chronicle of America's vibrant and tumultuous rise.
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About the Author-
  • David S. Reynolds is a distinguished professor of English and American studies at the Graduate Center and Baruch College of the City University of New York and the author of Walt Whitman's America.
Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine Author Reynolds paints a portrait of the social, intellectual, and political climate of the United States in the period following the War of 1812. The period saw a blossoming of American inventiveness and letters, although the impact of some developments wouldn't be fully felt for decades. Most characteristic of the period was Andrew Jackson, who transformed the presidency from a domain of East Coast intellectuals and gentry to a party-driven outgrowth of the voting public. The material is dense at times, and listening requires more concentration than reading a Jackson biography in print. Arthur Morey offers a solid narration. He regularly varies his pacing to avoid a sleep-inducing sameness. Avoiding affectation, he alters his tone just slightly when he delivers direct quotes to set them off. R.C.G. (c) AudioFile 2009, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    August 18, 2008
    Bancroft Prize–winning historian Reynolds (Walt Whitman's America
    ) offers a fine addition to the literature on pre–Civil War American history in this account of the years 1815–1848. Exhilarated after defying Britain in the War of 1812, Americans redirected their energy into moving west, making money and wiping out every trace of elitism in their leaders. This resulted, after four aristocratic Virginians and two scholarly Adamses as president, in the election in 1828 of the uneducated frontiersman Andrew Jackson, who launched the unique American tradition of leaders who boast that they are no smarter than the electorate. While the politics of the era are familiar to many, even knowledgeable readers will relish the chapters on social history, in which Reynolds explains how a rapidly growing economy spurred both “prudishness and prostitution,” and the enormous consumption of alcohol that spawned the temperance movement. Most, according to Reynolds, took for granted that anyone not like them (blacks, Indians, perhaps even Canadians) belonged to subhuman races. Although less opinionated than Sean Wilentz and Daniel Walker Howe on this period, Reynolds delivers a straightforward, insightful history of America during its bumptious adolescence. 44 b&w illus.

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America in the Age of Jackson
David S. Reynolds
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