The period following the Civil War was one of the most controversial eras in American history. This comprehensive account of the period captures the drama of those turbulent years that played such an important role in shaping modern America.
Eric Foner brilliantly chronicles how Americans, black and white, responded to the unprecedented changes unleashed by the Civil War and the end of slavery. He provides fresh insights on a host of other issues, including the ways in which the emancipated slave's quest for economic autonomy and equal citizenship shaped the political agenda of Reconstruction; the remodeling of Southern society and the place of planters, merchants, and small farmers within it; the evolution of racial attitudes and patterns of race relations; Abraham Lincoln's attitude toward Reconstruction; the role of "carpetbaggers" and "scalawags"; and the role of violence in the period.
This "smart book of enormous strengths" (Boston Globe) has become the classic work on the wrenching post-Civil War period, an era whose legacy reverberates in the United States to this day.
©1988 Eric Foner (P)1990 Blackstone Audio
I like the details that the author provides, sometimes the endless political machinations get to be difficult to follow and redundant. This is probably true of the era, but for a historical tome it can be difficult to follow.
The reader is a huge detriment to this book. His is monotone and uses little voice variation even in his most emphatic moments. I turned the speed up to two times normal and found myself able to feel more interested in the performance.
All in all, a very interesting book about a very to tumultuous time.
It ought to be required reading for everyone in high school since racism is so rampant in our society .
The roughly two decades following the Civil War is one of the most consequential but unexamined periods of American history. I'm certain there's a gripping narrative history of reconstruction to be told, but sadly Foner's book isn't it. Thorough, scholarly, almost magisterial, it's also curiously lifeless, and the narrator doesn't do the dry recounting of events any favors with his slow and ponderous delivery. (Pro-tip: speed it up to at least 1.25x, so he sounds like a normal person.).
It's interesting to contrast "Reconstruction" with "Savage Continent," which detailed the immediate post-second world war Europe. The former is thorough but colorless, while the latter book manages to capture the sweeping big picture within vivid firsthand anecdotes. Even the moments that should shock and appall the reader—the rise of the Klan, violent reprisals against freedmen, etc.—are rendered banal an lifeless by Foner.
I'm still glad I read it, but I wouldn't recommend "Reconstruction". Unfortunately, I don't know what book I would recommend in its place.
I certainly learned a lot from the narrative, and can recommend it as a source of great detail about the politics of the era and the effects of changing policies on freedmen, southern whites, and northern politicians. Many of the details are important to an understanding of racial tensions that continue into our own time.
The narrator has a pleasant voice and kept an appropriate tempo and range of expression. I found distracting his unorthodox pronunciation of hegemony, a word that comes up frequently in the text. There were other less frequent words that he also pronounced strangely.
This book probably had just a bit too much detail for me; the book seemed to drag on a bit. It is no doubt ideal for a historian or one researching the roots of American race relations.
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