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Throes of Democracy: The American Civil War Era, 1829-1877

4.11  ·  Rating Details  ·  101 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
"And then there came a day of fire!" From its shocking curtain-raiser—the conflagration that consumed Lower Manhattan in 1835—to the climactic centennial year of 1876, when Americans staged a corrupt, deadlocked presidential campaign (fought out in Florida), Walter A. McDougall's Throes of Democracy: The American Civil War Era, 1829-1877 throws off sparks like a flywheel. ...more
ebook, 816 pages
Published April 7th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published March 1st 2008)
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Tim
Aug 26, 2011 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"I believe the United States (so far) is the greatest success story in history. I believe Americans (on balance) are experts at self-deception. And I believe the 'creative corruption' born of their pretense goes far to explain their success." (xii)

Walter McDougall notes this right up front. Despite such a fine humorous and true beginning, the second volume in his history of America (not certain he will get through in just three volumes) did not make me laugh anywhere as much as the original vo
...more
Patrick
Reread July-October 2011 - Took me 3 months again, but I read this again and even all of the notes in the back this time. I love this author! His interpretation of the failure of reconstruction because of willful self-deception of the American people is powerful. I see his hypothesis of the "civil religion" everyday in politics here in Utah County. Americans are dynamic, creative builders, but also masters of pretense. We are talented, but ignore reality when it contradicts our self-story of vir ...more
Elizabeth
Dec 20, 2013 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading one book about the Civil War period...before, during, and after is simply dipping your foot into the ocean. Each book has a point of view and tries to describe the period to the author's satisfaction. This book is somewhat different in that it deals with the years leading to the war from their different geographic locations and continues after the war to show how the country continued. It gives a good picture of the tumult of those years--slavery, war with Mexico, gold in California, the ...more
Josh Craddock
Jun 25, 2012 Josh Craddock rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Masters of Make-Believe

The American was a new Adam, placed in Eden to subdue and rule by divine right. Believing Providence had favored them with material well-being, 19th century Americans began the work of spreading their Millenarian vision from sea to shining sea. True, an exceptional founding generation motivated by faith and commerce established a political regime unprecedented in history. Just as true, Americans are “experts at self-deception” (MacDougall xii) who began to idealize their o
...more
Ted Hunt
Apr 10, 2012 Ted Hunt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting look at the Civil War era. The writer spends a lot of time examining the literary and religious figures of the day, putting men like Melville, Poe, and Henry Ward Beecher into their proper historical context (and who knew that Beecher may have been the nation's first national religious figure to be exposed for, shall we say, moral "hypocrisy." McDougall seems to be part of the "consensus" school of history, as he stresses the continuity of the various political leaders and forces of ...more
Robert
Aug 19, 2012 Robert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Decent overview of the period with some interesting insights and was generally an easy read. He did have a tendency (IMO) to throw out statements as fact, however, without backing them up with support. One example that sticks out in my mind occurs on page 143. Here he states, "As late as 1830, but contrast, American manufacturers found their market confined mostly to the steamboat industry begun by Robert Fulton in 1812." On what basis does he conclude that Fulton began the steamboat industry in ...more
Martin Zook
Nov 10, 2013 Martin Zook rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
Throes of Democracy makes an excellent accompaniment to James McPhearson's gold standard Battle Cry of Freedom. McDougall's history goes beyond McPhearson's work. ToD overlaps in some important areas with BCoF. It differs in that it gives relatively scant coverage to the battles of the Civil War. ToD is a more thematic history.

In this, his second volume in a planned trilogy, he continues to analyze America's history as an extension of four drivers that are rooted in Tudor-Stuart England, includi
...more
James Hatton
Nov 17, 2014 James Hatton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a story! The history of America is fascinating. Never before had such a thing happened. It will be a long time before such a thing happens again. The real story of America is way better than the fairy tales we're taught in schools, or on the TV, or that we make up ourselves.

(This history follows the author's previous history, "Freedom Just Around the Corner".)
Kevin
Oct 08, 2008 Kevin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As with the first volume, Freedom Just Around the Corner, in this planned three-volume history of the United States, in Throes of Democracy McDougall views 19th century American with an ironic and conservative (think Burke and not Reagan) eye. The passions that gripped the era - from Jacksonian democracy, to abolition, to Manifest destiny and religious cults - are viewed by McDougall as either dangerously extreme or cynical manipulations of the populous. With very few exceptions, there are no he ...more
Paul Lunger
Nov 10, 2012 Paul Lunger rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Walter A. McDougall's "Throes of Democracy: The American Civil War Era 1829-1877" continues his journey through American history as he examines the administrations of Andrew Jackson through Ulysses S. Grant. In this installment, the history is a little better organized than the previous & also the background information relating to the culture & peoples of American in the mid-19th century are kept out of the mainstream thread of the story of this era. McDougall does an excellent job in t ...more
Lauren Albert
The book moved between a three and a four. I found the ending, with McDougall's focus on Orestes Brownson rather tedious and puzzling (why so much of the end of the book?). But I thought he did a good job in describing the lead-up to the war.
Michaelpatrick Keena
Though a hefty volume in itself, it is very readable. Informative, creative in presenting the whole truth, letting us know that history is not just worth knowing; but a must in knowing. This book is a must as a text for seniors in high schools, and colleges at least! It is so great that I've ordered it's prequil. It the best fun read that I've had in years!
Murray
Jul 20, 2013 Murray rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
True rating: 3.5 stars. Good information presented well. I wish history authors would put the non-bibliography type notes in the book text. The author said the notes were in the back of the book to save space in a 610 page book. He then goes onto 146 pages of microscopic notes.
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
Not quite as good as Freedom Just Around the Corner, but still a good read. Probably about 3.5 stars.

Also, McDougall has a highly inconsistent use of Negro versus Black that perplexes me.
Steve
Fantastic book, focuses on the hustlers of american history, bashes holes in the idealistic standard viewpoint we are taught in schools, yet is far less shrill than Zinn.
Chris
Jul 30, 2012 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good read, addressing all aspects of American life. The obvious elephant in the room is the extension of slavery as the country expanded westward.
Rebecca Jaramillo
Written by one of my professors at Cal, in fact a gift, so far, it is great. But, since I am mostly campaigning for Obama, I am taking my time...
Amber
An in-depth American history, the second in the series. Lots of personal correspondance, and other things that make it interesting.
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