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What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 (2007)

by Daniel Walker Howe

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Oxford History of the United States (5), Oxford Histories

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1,7002510,408 (4.32)57
As part of the Oxford History of the United States series, this volume is a portrait of an era that saw dramatic transformations in American life. The author 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. This 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. This 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. This book provides a monumental narrative of this formative period in United States history.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
The real drawback for me of Daniel Walker Howe's early 19th century American history was not the writing, but the narrator. There were times that I wondered if the reader was a computer or a human. So monotone at different points it was almost enough to get me to turn it off. But Howe's writing was good and the topics/tales/history that were told were very interesting. Mix that with the turbulent times and exciting and unbelievable characters Walker Howe had a great canvas with which to work. So good as a book, didn't quite reach that level as a audiobook. Still, I would recommended it, well worth the time. ( )
  Schneider | Jan 3, 2023 |
This is an outstanding history of the US between 1815 and 1848. Before I started this book, I had thought of this period as a tedious time when too little of interest occurred. As a result of Howe's book, I found this period to be full of exciting and important events. Although the book is 900 pages long (i.e. 300 pages per decade), I found the book to be such an appetizer that I now have a long list of other books I want to read. Howe's coverage is broad with discussions on the political, economic, military and cultural histories of the period as well as good overviews on slavery, native Americans, and Mexican Americans. The book was a pleasure to read. ( )
  M_Clark | Aug 13, 2021 |
This book makes the early 19th century fascinating! Yes, it is about the Whig Party yet a page turner. ( )
  Charles_R._Cowherd | Jul 10, 2021 |
Really excellent overview of the period. Howe's obvious distaste for Andrew Jackson is a welcome corrective to our culture's celebration of the first truly, deeply authoritarian president; an overrated blowhard if there ever was one. Likewise, he rescues John Q. Adams and some other important but easily forgotten figures like Winfield Scott from their relative obscurity.

Howe argues that the revolutions in transportation (canals, railroads) and communication (telegraph especially) did more to transform antebellum America than the market revolutions typically put forward by other historians. I have a lot of sympathy with this view, especially since a burgeoning market economy is traceable in America much earlier than the period covered in this book.

The book can repeat itself at times, and Howe places an enormous emphasis on religion, especially on Protestant revivalism. While pointing out that it did a lot in the fight for abolition, Howe is a little too rosy and a little too sympathetic. He yammers on about its importance in the fight for reform movements, but never once mentions any downsides or drawbacks to the overheated religious climate.

I would also be embarrassed to be a professional historian and to have written the following about the US seizure of California:

"In the long run of history, however, in some respects, the seizure of California by the United States did work, as Polk expected, for "the general interests of mankind." For example, it enabled a strong stand [...] against the aggressions of Imperial Japan in the 1940s. God moves in mysterious ways, and He is certainly capable of bringing good out of evil (811)."

Puke. Though Howe spends more time discussing religion than most other historians of the period writing primarily narrative history, the treatments of non-evangelical Protestants, Catholics, and the small but growing free-thought movement are disappointingly breezy by comparison. On a positive note, he spends an appropriate amount of time talking about the growth and development of Mormonism, though he places himself in the odd position of justifying some of its more reprehensible practices, namely polygamy.

All of these are relatively minor squabbles with a masterful work of history. ( )
  mw724 | Jul 7, 2021 |
This was an amazing book, sweeping yet detailed. Highly recommend it for any history buff. ( )
  GoofyOcean110 | May 15, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
[An] exemplary addition to the Oxford History of the United States.
 
One of the chief merits of “What Hath God Wrought” is Howe’s earnest effort, and great success, at chronicling changes of all sorts, from rates of childhood mortality to the gross national product, from the frequency of bathing to the firepower of cannons.
 

» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Howe, Daniel Walkerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cullen, PatrickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lescault, JohnNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perkins, RachelCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To the Memory of John Quincy Adams
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On the twenty-fourth of May 1844, Professor F.B. Morse, seated amidst a hushed gathering of distinguished national leaders in the chambers of the United States Supreme Court in Washington, tapped out a message on a device of cogs and coiled wires: WHAT HAS GOD WROUGHT
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As part of the Oxford History of the United States series, this volume is a portrait of an era that saw dramatic transformations in American life. The author 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. This 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. This 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. This book provides a monumental narrative of this formative period in United States history.

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