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What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 (Oxford History of the United States #5)

4.07  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,863 Ratings  ·  267 Reviews
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History The Oxford History of the United States is by far the most respected multi-volume history of our nation. In this Pulitzer prize-winning, critically acclaimed addition to the series, historian Daniel Walker Howe illuminates the period from the battle of New Orleans to the end of the Mexican-American War, an era when the United States ...more
Hardcover, 904 pages
Published October 1st 2007 by Oxford University Press, USA
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Community Reviews

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This is not a popular history, but a scholarly treatment consistent with it being a component of “The Oxford History of the United States”. Thus, there is more here than an average reader can comfortably digest. It’s written well enough to flow well, and the author keeps touching base with the big picture and with themes and angles on key events and people that mark his own contribution. In such a well-trod arena he does a good job standing of the shoulders of giants while keeping all the scaffo ...more
Jan 15, 2016 Tony rated it it was amazing
"In America I saw more than America," Tocqueville explained; "I sought there the image of democracy itself, with its inclinations, its character, its prejudices, and its passions, in order to learn what we have to fear or to hope from its progress."

Tocqueville is quoted here, in this marvelous work of history, a statement made contemporaneous to the time examined (1815-1848), but one that would serve a look-around today. The quote also serves as a reflection of this very meticulous, insightful b
May 24, 2014 Tim rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
October 2013 - Second reading - remarkable entry into the history of the time, full of details, synthesis and well-considered opinion.

I took a seminar with Howe and it was the finest classroom experience I have ever had. He is a wise and good man. The book provides a remarkable overview of the time between 1815 and 1848. Central to Howe's argument are the changes made to transport and communications that hastened all the other changes to American life during the time period: "The America of 1848
James Thane
May 20, 2013 James Thane rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
This is the fifth volume in the excellent Oxford History of the United States, and the lengthy description of the book above provides a good overall view of the work; there's no real need to repeat all of that here. Howe has thoroughly mastered the literature of the period and he writes a compelling account of the nation's development during these critical years.

Howe's emphasis on the importance of the revolution in transportation and communications during the period seems spot-on. But in his s
This is a true cultural history, not merely a political or economic history as so much of the literature on Jacksonian America is. Daniel Walker Howe takes ideas and mediated experience seriously, and he has an especially good ear for religion, which is indispensable to a study of the period's politics (as Lee Benson showed many years ago).

Howe is an unabashed admirer of the Whigs. In fact, he rejects the term "Jacksonian America" -- rightly, in my opinion -- and even dedicates this book to the
Mar 09, 2012 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book covers about thirty three years between the end of the War of 1812 until the aftermath of our war with Mexico, in 1848. These years are sometimes considered by those with shallow historical knowledge to be merely the time which transpired from the early nineteenth century until the beginnings of the Civil War, but in fact it was a time of fundamental change in the country. Howe's work is sweeping in scope and minute in detail in its descriptions of the epic political and economic chang ...more
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
Very interesting. Certainly a different take on the time than Sean Wilentz' The Rise of American Democracy. The Presidents can be summed up suchly:

Madison & Monroe: intentionally opaque
Adams: high-minded
Jackson: authoritarian
van Buren: political fixer
Harrison: (fatally) long-winded
Tyler: WiNO (Whig in Name Only)
Polk: suspicious, acquisitive paranoid plotter

Howe is as nasty to Jackson as Wilentz was sweet; President Jackson only comes off well during the Nullification Crisis.

He also devotes a
Aug 03, 2008 Paul rated it it was amazing
Shelves: about-history
This is a very well-written, thoughtful narrative history of American political, economic, and social development during a period of extraordinary change and national expansion. While Howe demurs that "this book tells a story; it does not argue a thesis" (p. 849), it is nevertheless fair to say that the story he tells argues the thesis that "the most important forces that had made American democracy meaningful during the years since 1815 were three. First, the growth of the market economy ... Se ...more
Jan 31, 2010 Steve rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Couldn't finish it. It's one of those books that you can learn a lot from, but the author's bias, somewhere around page 400, really started to eat at me. Jackson is a controversial character, one who did some bad things, but when I'm reading about those bad things, I'd like the writer to stay on a tighter leash. After a while, Howe, when on the subject of Jackson, begins to sound shrill, especially so when he sets up Adams as some sort of gleaming counterpoint to Jackson's backwoods Sauron. What ...more
33 years
855 pages (not including index)
9 presidents
12 states admitted to the Union
13.58 million people added to US
1563 references to slave/s
173 references to Mormon/s/ism
30,000 soldiers killed in the Mexican-American War (approx.)
1 month of reading
20 chapters
1 preface
1 afterword
200+ footnotes (approximately)
19 glorious maps

This is one huge historical review article about a period in U.S. history I knew little about.

I sadly have to downgrade this a star after my initial assessment. I talked it o
Jul 16, 2015 Max rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
Howe takes us through America’s transition from a rural nation of family farmers to one in the throes of industrialization, urbanization, the communications and transportation revolution, increasingly diverse immigration, emerging religious plurality, millennialism, the birth of the women’s rights movement, powerful political parties and intense divisive politics, ethnic cleansing, imperialism, dependence on king cotton and slavery, and disingenuous self-serving presidents. By 1848, America had ...more
Michael Austin
Dec 26, 2012 Michael Austin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2012
This is the third volume of the Oxford History of the United States that I have read, and it is probably my favorite of the three, though all of them have been astoundingly good. _What Hath God Wrought_ bridges the gap between the much more studied periods before and after it, and which are the other two volumes that I have read: the Early Republic (Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815) and the Civil War (Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era). Somewhat more than the ...more
Jun 23, 2009 Matt rated it really liked it
Imagine a vegetable that tastes pretty good (maybe you can do this, I can't). You eat this pretty-good-tasting vegetable and feel both satisfied and healthy.

Such was my experience reading What Hath God Wrought

(The title comes from Samuel F.B. Morris's famous line which he sent over the telegraph; as author Daniel Howe points out, the line was not in the form of a question).

This is a doorstop of a book, at 860 pages of text. It's part of the well-received Oxford History of the United States, o
Nov 30, 2008 rmn rated it it was amazing
You won’t find a better history book, but beware, this is a strict history book and not an author trying to prove a thesis. I would compare it to a text book, only if a text book were well written, interesting, and focused solely on a 30ish year period (1815-1848) in American History.

Howe does a tremendous job of making the Jacksonian/Antebellum period of American History accessible, fascinating, exhaustive, and easy to follow. This period in American History is probably one of the most crucial
Nov 13, 2008 corpho rated it liked it
An exhaustive examination of a time of rapid growth in the U.S., whether politically, culturally, religiously, or everything in between. I normally don't have much interest in these types of books, but Daniel Walker Howe does such an amazing job of making this dense tome accessible to any reader. I learned so many pieces of trivia -- how the poinsettia got its name, where the expression "teetotal" comes from, and the origin of "bunkum" -- that I had always wondered about. I found the most enligh ...more
Sep 05, 2011 Stacie rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-own, non-fiction
Wow! That was quite the ride through 33 years of American history. I found this book quite educational and truly amazes me what we aren't taught in school (or maybe what I wasn't paying attention to). Howe takes the reader on a great journey...sometimes he tells the same story in a differnt way, reminding me of my Gran who always told me the same stories over and over again, but I learned to nod my head in agreement because for both of them, they were repeating the story because ...more
Lars Guthrie
Jan 03, 2010 Lars Guthrie rated it really liked it
Two history books came out this year that garnered quite a bit of attention almost in spite of their subject matter: 'A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk and the Conquest of the American Continent' by Robert Merry, and T.J. Stiles’s 'The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt.' That started me thinking about a reading project that would include those books and lead me to a deeper understanding of American history in the 1800s.

Then there was lots of splash from President Obama’s
Apr 13, 2015 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, history, owned
Sweeping. Epic. Majestic. Daniel Walker Howe needs 900 pages to tell the story of the 33 years between the War of 1812 and the end of the Mexican-American War — perhaps the most anonymous three decades in American history.

But "What Hath God Wrought" is all the more rewarding because of that anonymity. Every page is a revelation, whether the focus is politics, Christianity, science, immigration or any of the hundreds of anecdotes and facts packed into its pages.

On one level, the book sets up a ru
May 04, 2014 Matthew rated it it was amazing
So, I took the Praxis exam to become a History teacher cold, without studying anything, and there were about 200 questions, and I marked down all of the questions that I didn't know as I went along. There were only 7 that I didn't know, and when I started looking them up (Wilmot Proviso, The Mexican American War . . . ) they were all from 1815-1848 in American History. Apparently, I fell asleep somewhere around the Monroe Doctrine and the Battle of New Orleans, and woke up when they started atta ...more
Jeremy Perron
Jul 24, 2012 Jeremy Perron rated it it was amazing
What Hath God Wrought is the third book in Oxford History of the United States series. The author, David Walker Howe, covers the remarkable transformation of nation not only in a political sense but in an entire physical and technological sense. The work begins with the story of the first official telegraph being sent by Samuel Morse in the chambers of the Supreme Court of the United States in an attempt to let his prestigious audience see the wonders of this new technology and learn of the the ...more
Feb 06, 2013 Caroline rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, history
This is a truly outstanding book of history and is a perceptive analysis of the transformation of American politics, culture, technology, and social relations from 1812 to 1848. Howe covers every aspect of life in America, weaving the strands in and out of the changing fabric. He makes many complex political machinations at state and national levels comprehensible. Most valuable, Howe explains how so many of the substantive, regional, and interest group positions and blocs arose in early America ...more
Aug 11, 2014 Athens rated it it was ok
In many ways, this is a very strong and well-written book. Howe's command of the subject and his capacity for work are not to be underestimated; not many could keep up with him in these areas.

His structured approach is strong and his use of language is above reproach, as it really must be to occupy any professorship at this level.

Those points made, I have some problems with this particular book.


My moment-to-moment quibble with Howe is that he does not appear to be actually writing an
Brian Collins
Apr 02, 2013 Brian Collins rated it really liked it
Howe’s book is another excellent entry in the Oxford History of the United States series. Howe does not quite measure up to the works of Wood and McPherson, which flank it, but it is nonetheless and excellent work. Positively, he gives religion significant coverage in his history, but, negatively, his summaries of American religion were not always accurate. More difficult to evaluate is Howe’s evident bias for John Quincy Adams (the book is dedicated to him) and against Andrew Jackson. Howe, I b ...more
Apr 26, 2014 Ware rated it it was amazing
In 1815 the United States was a large and young republic. Its political life was still heavily influenced by the founding fathers, one of whom James Madison was faced with the prospect of rebuilding the seat of government following the burning of the Executive Mansion, the Congress and the Library of Congress by British forces. A coat of white paint was put on the Executive Mansion which quickly and forever became known as the White House.

While Madison may have been the father of the Constituti
Brian Pate
Mar 23, 2014 Brian Pate rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014
Howe's thesis is that this time period is characterized by progress in transportation and communication. He begins with a brief synopsis of the War of 1812 (the beginning of which could have been averted and the end of which could have been a lot less bloody with better communication).
Bryan Alexander
Jun 16, 2015 Bryan Alexander rated it it was amazing
One of the pleasures of my life is reading history. I read widely these days (literature, philosophy, technology, Gothic), but history is one of the great delights. I can't get enough of diving into a period and place that I only know a little, or not at all. Revising my knowledge is grand, too, when I have a good understanding to begin with.

So I was eager to wade into What Hath God Wrought. Professionally I was trained as a British lit expert, and managed to completely avoid American history fr
Dec 02, 2014 Joshua rated it really liked it
This is a great history of the antebellum period. Clearly written and provides gripping narrative at some points. On the downside, this book is a mammoth weighing in at over 800 pages. Daniel Walker Howe doesn't purport to offer a thesis or central argument in the volume but it doesn't have some underlying assumptions that coalesce into a subtle thesis by the end of the volume.

Howe was contracted by Oxford University Press to publish this volume as part of their Oxford History of the United Stat
Jan 05, 2016 Nick rated it really liked it
“The most bloody conflicts, however, derived from the domination of the North American continent by the white people of the United States and their government. If a primary driving force can be identified in American history for this period [1815-1848], this was it. As its most ardent exponents, the Jacksonian Democrats, conceived it, this imperialist program included the preservation and extension of African American slavery as well as the expropriation of Native Americans and Mexicans. The rem ...more
Jun 04, 2010 Peter rated it it was amazing
This was an astonishing book. As one who has an interest in the life of Abraham Lincoln, as well as in the history of the LDS Church, this book is absolutely indispensable for understanding the broader context in which Lincoln grew up and the LDS Church was founded. Daniel Walker Howe is wonderful -- he's objective and makes harsh assessments when it's called for (such as Polk's war of aggression on Mexico), yet he has a profound appreciation for what a great country this is. And then we get gem ...more
Aug 05, 2010 Tom rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Reading this book was a commitment in time, but very worthwhile. For anyone interested in American history this book should be on their reading list and available for future reference. It covers the antebellum period following the end of the war of 1812 and up to about 1846. The book is more than simply political history and covers social, religious, philosophical, science issues as well. It was during this period of time that the party system began with the Democrats (states rights, pro-slavery ...more
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Daniel Walker Howe is a historian of the early national period of American history and specializes in the intellectual and religious history of the United States. He is Rhodes Professor of American History Emeritus at Oxford University in England and Professor of History Emeritus at the University of California, Los Angeles. He received the Pulitzer Prize for History for What Hath God Wrought, his ...more
More about Daniel Walker Howe...

Other Books in the Series

Oxford History of the United States (8 books)
  • The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789
  • Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815
  • Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era
  • Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945
  • Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974
  • Restless Giant: The United States from Watergate to Bush v. Gore
  • From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776

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“All the rival presidential candidates called themselves Republicans, and each claimed to be the logical successor to the Jeffersonian heritage. Ironically, what the campaign produced was the breakup of the party and the traditions everyone honored. One-party government proved an evanescent phase in American history.” 0 likes
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