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The Ordeal of the Reunion: A New History of…

The Ordeal of the Reunion: A New History of Reconstruction

by Mark Wahlgren Summers

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Summers is one of my favorite historians. He is a master dealing with sources and he has a great sense of humor. Summers is one of the few historians who really does make me chuckle out loud. Summers makes a case that Reconstruction was more of a success than we tend to view it. He argues that the primary purpose of Reconstruction was to bring the union back together after the war without slavery or a slave power. In this, he stresses, it succeeded. There really was little political will even at the height of Radical Reconstruction to completely re-make southern society. Ordeal of Reunion examines the importance of the west (as a source of conflict and investment that drained the north of political and economic will), the economy (especially the Panic of 1873 which devastated the south, especially freedmen), and corruption (which was a real problem in some Reconstruction governments). This will give me a new perspective for when we get to Reconstruction in class much later this spring. ( )
  gregdehler | Jul 4, 2017 |
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For a generation, scholarship on the Reconstruction era has rightly focused on the struggles of the recently emancipated for a meaningful freedom and defined its success or failure largely in those terms. In The Ordeal of the Reunion, Mark Wahlgren Summers goes beyond this vitally important question, focusing on Reconstruction's need to form an enduring Union without sacrificing the framework of federalism and republican democracy. Assessing the era nationally, Summers emphasizes the variety of conservative strains that confined the scope of change, highlights the war's impact and its aftermath, and brings the West and foreign policy into an integrated narrative. In sum, this book offers a fresh explanation for Reconstruction's demise and a case for its essential successes as well as its great failures. Indeed, this book demonstrates the extent to which the victors' aims in 1865 were met--and at what cost. Summers depicts not just a heroic, tragic moment with equal rights advanced and then betrayed but a time of achievement and consolidation, in which nationhood and emancipation were placed beyond repeal and the groundwork was laid for a stronger, if not better, America to come.… (more)

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