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Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, History, 2008

In this addition to the esteemed Oxford History of the United States series, historian Daniel Walker Howe illuminates the period from the Battle of New Orleans to the end of the Mexican-American War, an era of revolutionary improvements in transportation and communications that accelerated America's expansion and prompted the rise of mass political parties.

He examines the rise of Andrew Jackson and his Democratic party but contends that John Quincy Adams and other advocates of public education, economic integration, and the rights of blacks, women, and Indians were the true prophets of America's future.

Howe's panoramic narrative - weaving together social, economic, and cultural history with political and military events - culminates in the controversial but brilliantly executed war against Mexico that gained California and Texas for America.

Please note: The individual volumes of the series have not been published in historical order. What Hath God Wrought is number V in The Oxford History of the United States.

Listen to more of the definitive Oxford History of the United States.
©2007 Oxford University Press, Inc. (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"One of the most outstanding syntheses of U.S. history published this decade." ( Publishers Weekly)"He is a genuine rarity: an English intellectual who not merely writes about the United States but actually understands it." ( Washington Post)"A stunning is a rare thing to encounter a book so magisterial and judicious and also so compelling." ( Chicago Tribune)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall

Fantastic content, faulty narration

This book provides a comprehensive overview of US history from the end of the War of 1812 to just after the admission of California to the Union. The ebb and flow of politics provides the main narrative framework for the book, into which Howe weaves detailed discussions of the competing social, economic, religious and technological forces that slowly transformed the coastal states of the founders into a continent-spanning empire riven by internal disputes that would erupt in the Civil War and reverberate for more than a century after. Howe makes the entire era come alive by drawing on a wide variety of primary sources, from census data to the writings contemporary diarists and newspaper accounts, and incorporating many engaging quotes.

This would be a perfect listen for an avid student of American history, since it covers a frequently overlooked period (overlooked, I would add, for reasons which Howe discusses at length towards the end of the book) were it not for the truly horrible quality of the recording. The narrator is overall quite good, but the editing is probably among the worst I have ever encountered. There are noticeable jumps in audio quality and speed throughout, sometimes even within the same sentence. These imperfections are substantial enough that at times I found myself listening more to the atrocious mixing than the actual content, which was a shame.

38 of 38 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

comprehensive history

I am a casual history fan and I've always had trouble keeping track of the Taylor's and the Tyler's in the first half of the 19th century. This book is comprehensive, well-read and detailed, sometimes to the point where it can be hard to follow, especially if you listen while commuting. There are many themes, and he jumps back and forth between them. I found myself backing up several times to make sense of things, but it was not too much of a chore. As the author says in the conclusion, he is telling a story, not asserting a thesis--this type of history I think is the most fun to listen to. I never found it tiresome, and that is a lot to say about a book this long. The other reviewer is correct, there were a lot of changes in the recording, sometimes in the middle of a sentence. While this is unusual in audiobooks, I did not find it very distracting.

31 of 32 people found this review helpful

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Great Comprehensive Look at the Period

The phrase “What Hath God Wrought” was the first message sent long distance over the telegraph. This was in some ways the beginning of the communications age. This book covers the period from 1815 to 1848. Many viewed the War of 1812 as the second American Revolution. In the aftermath of that war the American nation began to grow quickly. By the end of the period another war would be fought. This one with Mexico. That war would complete what we today call the Continental United States.

This period is rich in American history. The nation grew in size, but also in many other areas. Religion flourished in many new and differing ways. An American culture began to grow in the areas of science, literature, and the arts. The tasks of governing a Republic of vast proportions was a novel concept and continued to perplex many leaders. This period saw the end of the Federalist party with the government becoming a one party system with the Republican party in control during the Monroe years. After that the Republican party split itself in two as the followers of Andrew Jackson created the Democrat party and the opponents of Jackson creating the Whig party. Some of the greatest orators and politicians of 19th century America lived and served in this time. It was the period of Jackson, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, John Calhoun, and John Quincy Adams. Towards the end of the period new leaders like Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas began to rise.

Slavery was the elephant in the room that could no longer be ignored. As abolitionist societies began to grow in the North the Southern planter class become more and more adamant about protecting slavery. This conflict would continue to pull at the fabric of the nation until, a dozen years after the final period of this book, it would tear the nation in two.

These are only a few of the areas covered by Daniel Walker Howe in this outstanding volume in the Oxford History of the United States. Even a seasoned reader of history is bound to discover some new gems in these pages. Howe’s prose is never wooded and the subject is made very accessible. With magnificent books like these it is a shame that so few Americans read history. This is a great place to begin the study of a crucial time in our nation’s history.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Roger
  • South Orange, NJ, United States
  • 04-30-09

Thorough and in-depth analysis

When writing a period survey, it is extremely difficult to be both comprehensive and cohesive. This book, however, succeeds marvelously at both. Howe has incorporated the breadth and inclusiveness of a period survey with in-depth critical analysis, and the result is a compelling story. Howe disclaims an attempt to present a thesis, yet he does identify several themes in his analysis, such as what he calls the revolutions in communications and transportation. He does a wonderful job maintaining his themes throughout the book, explaining how various events and trends influenced and were influenced by the themes. He also explains how many of these trends influenced the periods following 1815-1848, especially the lead-up to the Civil War, and continuing into the present.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Gary
  • Antonito, CO, USA
  • 05-14-09

bad editing

Good book, good narrator, but the editing was horrible... leaving no pauses where they should be, running all the sentences together unnaturally. A tedious chore to listen to..almost as if the editors were trying to make the book as short as possible by crunching the sentences together as closely as they could. Never had the problem before with any other book -- I hope I never run into it again.

33 of 37 people found this review helpful

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  • Ed
  • Hope Valley, RI, USA
  • 02-13-09

An interesting book with some issues

While I am enjoying this book, there are some issues. There is a LOT more about religion than I thought. From the description, I thought it was going to be about technology and politics. I'm a casual reader of history. It seems that this book is written for someone with a more than casual love of history. Be prepared to ocasionally pause this book and do a Google search for terms that the author assumes the reader is familiar with. While this book is read well, it doesn't seem to be edited well. I can imagine that it takes days if not weeks to record these books. In other books, you can tell when they have stopped and started recording by the suttle changes in pitch or tone. Usually this happens at the end of pages, chapters, or parts. In this book, it happens mid-sentence. A lot. While it doesn't make the book unlistenable, it is annoying.

36 of 41 people found this review helpful

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  • Gary
  • Las Cruces, NM, United States
  • 02-27-15

History is not just for those who live in the past

I did not realize how interesting or nuanced American history was during this period of time. The author tells the history while never boring, but at times the players got more complex than any science book because the categories don't always neatly fit into today's way of thinking about things. There just too many good stories to be told and he tells them. The author gives the political top down story, but never forgetting the bottom up approach and looking at the individuals who make up the whole.

The country was not a monolithic beast able to only hold one thought in its mind at a time. Even when we did wrong (slavery, Native American removal and extermination, women discrimination, wars of expansion, and so on), there were large undercurrents who spoke up against it.

The real dichotomy throughout the book is the value of the individual as weighed against the good of the society as a whole. The characters and the stories being told never ceased to awe the listener. The author also really gave large sections on the history of religion at the time and why it was so important for the development of the country at that time. The Millennialism Movement was widely believed and contributed to the belief of American Exceptionalism and even helps pave the way for Abraham Lincoln. My only regret with the book, is he didn't take me all the way up to 1860.

I would definitely recommend this book. The more we understand where we came from the more we can understand where we are going. There is a reason why some politicians want to end Advanced Placement History from high schools and not let students read books like this one. History does not always tell our story such that we are always exceptional, always in the right, or that we have a manifest destiny. History is much more nuanced (and interesting) than cable news, talk radio or some blogs would have you believe.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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A great overview of this time period!

This is a long book at about 34 hours but worth the time it took to listen. I knew little about the time period of 1815-1848 in the history of our country which is a shame because lots of things happened in this timeframe. This won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008 and is one of the Oxford History of America series.

I have seen people claim a liberal bias in this book. I can't say I saw that but it is harsh on conservative darling Andrew Jackson with good reason. He destroyed the banking system, disregarded the Supreme Court rulings, and shipped the Cherokee and other natives off to the reservations in the infamous Trail of Tears. Polk doesn't get much sympathy from him either. The Mexican War seems to have been a more unpopular war than even Viet Nam. We were the aggressor in that one.

I think it is important to read many histories on the same topics and get a well rounded picture instead of only reading Glenn Beck or Bill O'Reilly's histories.

John Quincy Adams is the hero of this book. He wasn't a very good President but he was a wonderful statesman who stood up for the underdog (Amistad) and never quit. In fact, he died giving a speech on the Mexican War in the House of Representatives.

This book covers a lot of religious history. The Mormon's, the Great Enlightenment, the Second Great Enlightenment, the start of the Shakers, the Oneida Cult, the Transcendentalist movement, the Baptist, the Seventh Day Adventist all began in this period. It takes up many chapters in this book but is necessary to understand what was happening in the country.

I also learned how European white male centered this country was and how this affected the way we treated Hispanics, Blacks (slave and free), Catholics, Jews and women. Thank goodness we have grown into our Constitution.

Samuel Morse's first telegram to Congress was the quote "What hath God wrought" which the author made the title of his book. He emphasized the great transportation and communication changes that came about in these few years.

The narrator was fine for the most part except for his few pronunciation errors in words like "Willamette" that could be jarring at times.

A great overview of this time period and well worth the time.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Unsurpassed Historical Narrative read by Automaton

This is part of the definitive Oxford History of the United States. So, how in the world can the publisher decide to skimp on the narration of the audiobook version by hiring an AUTOMATON??? For what it sounds like, I could just as well be listening to a presentation of the United States Internal Revenue Code, Verbatim.

I just don't get it.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Scott
  • woodbury, MN, United States
  • 03-30-09

Long, in depth, illuminating

This period of history always gets the short stick. We go from revolution to civil war to WWI and 20th cetury without a pause into the largest technological, business, political, religous and social changes which enabled our 21st century ethics around the role of government, equal rights, the use of technology which seems so natural to us was quite different in 1812, but much closer to our current world in 1850. The discussion of women's rights, the revolutions of 1848, the great awakening, the war against Mexico, the development of the Whig's, and the anti-slavery movement are particualry engaging. Central is the change from the world of the horse to the technology of the railroad, telegraph, newspaper and strong federal government, complete with the central bank. This period of change rivals the change we feel has ocurred in the 20th century. Enjoy a great book.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Lord Peridot
  • 05-17-14

Poor production

This is indeed another excellent volume in this series. And I was looking forward to listening to it. But as others have said, the reading seems to have undergone some sort of compression. Perhaps some automated process, which removes natural pauses in the reading and seems to speed it all up. Consequence is overwhelming and unpleasant.

Reader actually does a good job and has an attractive voice. Its the production at fault. This book should be removed from Audible until publisher has produced the reading properly !!

  • Overall
  • Alan Michael Forrester
  • 04-07-13

Good, apart from the economics

"What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815 - 1848" by Daniel Walker Howe, read by Patrick Cullen is a good audiobook. Patrick Cullen reads it clearly.

The content of the book is, for the most part, a good explanation of the political and cultural changes in the US from 1815 to 1848. The judgements in it seem fair, like the judgement that the American colonists treated the Indians very shabbily and the US government didn't do much about this through a mixture of weakness and lack of concern for the Indians' rights.

Somewhat less good is the book's treatment of economics. The author takes for granted the idea that central banking and government spending money to prop up the economy during recessions. He doesn't argue that this is true, he just accepts it. And he's wrong. Central banking is a bad idea because it doesn't allow for voluntary adjustment of the money supply: instead the supply of money is adjusted by government fiat. The government pumping out money to "help" people during a recession is also a bad idea as it makes it more difficult for goods and services to be shifted out of the lines of production that are no longer profitable. See the works of George Selgin and Lawrence White on free banking and "Theory of Money and Credit" by Ludwig von Mises.