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A Short History of Reconstruction

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  855 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
An abridged version of Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, the definitive study of the aftermath of the Civil War, winner of the Bancroft Prize, Avery O. Craven Prize, Los Angeles Times Book Award, Francis Parkman Prize, and Lionel Trilling Prize.
Paperback, Abridged, 297 pages
Published January 10th 1990 by Harper Perennial (first published 1990)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,698)
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Jan 03, 2016 Caroline rated it really liked it
The first half is a dry and dense recital of the change in federal laws and early state constitutions that commenced Reconstruction. But the second half focuses on how racism, postwar economic events, and evolving concepts of the appropriate scope of government ended up reversing both the gains of Reconstruction in the South and the identity of the national Republican Party. It turned the party from the champion of abolition, free labor rights, and government as catalyst of development to the en ...more
Apr 19, 2008 Greg rated it liked it
Recommends it for: intense insomniacs who love history
Good history but I find it hard to read because it is not told through stories but through facts and analysis. Only seem to be able to read 5 pages at a time before I drift off. Learned lots about why we are where we are today and how lots of the campaign "issues" about Obama harken back to reconstruction politics.
Victor Davis
Dec 25, 2015 Victor Davis rated it it was ok
Shelves: civil-war
Confusing, unclear, and scattered, not unlike The Guns of August. Every sentence in the book is an uncited statement of fact, with little in the way of a narrative or an analysis of any one set of facts. Thus, I am forced to discriminate between raw statements of fact and skewed statements of interpretation myself, while flying completely blind. Having said that, I did learn quite a lot. The book is dense with facts about the ten-year (or so) period after the Civil War that are not common knowl ...more
Sep 12, 2015 skein rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-star, 2013
clear-cut, well-written, absolutely fucking appalling.

here's the thing: my public school teachers politely glossed over that whole RECONSTRUCTION thing, subtitled "In Which White Politicians Decide To Continue The System Of Slavery, Albeit Informally". i suspect my teachers were not allowed to teach us about Reconstruction, in the same way they were not allowed to teach about the Holocaust, or the Vietnam War, or the US-run internment camps for Japanese citizens, or the various atrocities commi
Tom Darrow
Nov 29, 2015 Tom Darrow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good fast-paced coverage of a topic that most Americans only have a superficial understanding of. He does a good job at placing the events of Reconstruction in their historical context (ex. by starting the story as the Civil War was still occurring, rather than in 1865). He also does a solid job at breaking out of the political narrative that is often the only focus of Reconstruction. He focuses on economic problems and the very complex social changes that were occurring, as well as the politica ...more
Nov 22, 2015 Cam rated it really liked it
Touches on many details that were skipped or glossed over whenever Reconstruction was covered in history classes I took - which is pretty much why I read it in the first place. Lots of detail involving state-by-state variations and how different Northern and Southern politics interacted to defeat it. Interesting enough to make me want to learn even more about various local histories and personal journeys during and after the era. Sort of a revelation as to how extensive black participation in ci ...more
John Daly
Oct 17, 2015 John Daly rated it it was amazing
The U.S. Civil War ended 150 years ago this year. Thus it is an appropriate time to read about the efforts to rebuild U.S, institutions after the war. The period called The Reconstruction actually began in Union occupied Confederate territories during the war; it ended in 1877 when Republican Rutherford Hayes made a deal with the Democrats to withdraw Union troops from the south in return for their support for his election after voting marked by violence and intimidation.

Reconstruction started s
Oct 27, 2014 Samuel rated it it was amazing
Eric Foner’s A Short History of Reconstruction, 1863-1877 abridges his larger work while preserving its main themes of the time period (and process) known as Reconstruction: the centrality of the black experience, the transformation of Southern society and economy, the evolution of racial attitudes and relations, the emergence of a national state with expanded authority and new purposes, and the North’s economy and class structure at the time. By beginning his treatment of Reconstruction in 1863 ...more
Mike Hankins
Nov 11, 2014 Mike Hankins rated it it was amazing
Shelves: civil-war, 19thc-us
This book is an abridged version of Foner's longer work on Reconstruction, although this does stand quite well on its own. The larger work gives more detail, but this hits all the main points and interpretations. Few eras of US history are as controversial as Reconstruction, even in establishing a general narrative. Foner here does a great job of summing up the main views that have been taken by others, before deciding on a middle ground approach. Foner argues that Reconstruction was a failure, ...more
Oct 01, 2013 Paul rated it really liked it
In A Short History of Reconstruction, Eric Foner describes the hopes, challenges and obstacles that emerged as the leaders of the United States tried to rebuild the nation after the Civil War. Foner pulls from a wide variety of sources including newspaper articles, letters, speeches, legal records, and the proceedings of state and national legislatures. Foner’s work is organized chronologically and starts with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 to demonstrate that “reconstruction was not only ...more
Josh Liller
This was assigned reading for my Civil War & Reconstruction class. It is an abridged version of the author's "Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution", cutting the original more or less in half. I have not read the original so I can offer no comparison.

I have mixed feelings about this book. The information seemed mostly good, but often out of chronological order which made some of it seem hard to follow. The writing didn't seem terrible, but the enjoyability was low. That may be simp
Ann Mcelligott
Sep 02, 2012 Ann Mcelligott rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
After watching Ken Burns documentary on the Civil War, I realized I knew nothing about reconstruction except that it was what followed the war. Foner's "Short History of Reconstruction" provided an excellent introduction. Although an abridgment of his longer book on this subject, he covers the material very adequately for the arm-chair historian. His writing is crisp and engaging. He has a strong argument against previous interpretations making the "carpetbaggers" and "scallywags" the scapegoats ...more
Feb 04, 2014 Cari rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating (if not a little disheartening) look at the failure of Reconstruction after the Civil War. It took African Americans nearly another 100 years to earn back the civil rights that should have been theirs with the end of the war and the passing of the 14th and 15th Amendments. We've come so far, but we've so far to go...
Oct 09, 2009 James rated it it was amazing
I have to add this to the list of the best books I have read and put the full, much longer version on my to read list.

Two things stand out:
(1) Former slaves really fought for citizenship and real equality (economic, political, etc), participated in politics, organized their community on many levels (politics, education), and took up arms to prevent any encroachments on their freedoms.
(2) the fact that they failed can largely be attributed to racism and naked economic interest in the South but al
Matt Mishkoff
Mar 02, 2011 Matt Mishkoff rated it really liked it
This may be the abbreviated version of Foner's Reconstruction book, but that doesn't mean it feels skimpy at all. Foner, in his usual engaging style, covers the Reconstruction era in great detail, and I can't imagine that a more authoritative, comprehensive single volume history of the time exists. It is often heartbreaking as you see the real gains blacks made in the early days of Reconstruction washed away in a flood of violence perpetrated by racists who refused to allow them anything approac ...more
Chris Leuchtenburg
Jun 13, 2014 Chris Leuchtenburg rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This book has given me new perspectives on our current political landscape, in particular the fundamental differences between the South and the rest of the country, but also the racism that has pervaded our history in all areas of the country.
D. L.  Turner
Mar 01, 2008 D. L. Turner rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in the Civil War, Reconstruction, and race in the United States
This book is the abridged version of "Reconstruction: America's unfinished Revolution." Foner is considered to be one of the premier scholars of this era. "A Short History" examines several issues including: 1. The centrality of the black experience during Reconstruction.
2. Traces the ways Southern society was remodeled economically and socially according to class and labor.
3. How racial attitudes and relations evolved at both the regional and national levels.
4. The emergence of a nation/stat
Mar 26, 2016 A rated it it was amazing
Very well written and readable. Reconstruction, and its abandonment, is a topic that so deeply affected the history of the United States that every American should have this book as required reading.
Christopher Walls
Mar 05, 2015 Christopher Walls rated it liked it
Shelves: history
In all honesty, I was rushed in reading this one. I will most likely reread this year and provide a better review.
Jan 04, 2010 Ed rated it it was amazing
This extraordinary book provides a brief but lucid history of the complexities of Reconstruction.It is more than a summary, however. It is also an argument that the failure of Reconstruction was not due bad influence of 'carpetbaggers' and 'scalawags' on foolish former slaves. This was the way I picked up my impression of Reconstruction and I am grateful to Foner for presenting a more convincing picture of the events of the period. Without denying the tragic failure of Reconstruction, Foner mana ...more
Stacy Croushorn
Jan 23, 2016 Stacy Croushorn rated it really liked it
Foner wrote "THE BOOK" on Reconstruction. This is basically a summary of that great tome.
Jerry Landry
An excellent history outlining the high and low points, the successes and failures, of Reconstruction. Foner does a fantastic job in this abridged version of his longer work on Reconstruction in highlighting the main events and ideological developments of this turbulent period in American history. I highly recommend this book not just for what it tells us about how modern America came to be but to see some of the trends that seem to be playing out once more in the ascendency of the corporate int ...more
Jan 13, 2015 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
Extremely helpful as I researched Reconstruction. He's brilliant.
Apr 26, 2015 Rebekkah rated it really liked it
Was Reconstruction doomed to fail?
Dec 04, 2008 George rated it it was amazing
this book says "short" but i think it clocks in around 500 pages. foner is excellent, recommend anything he has done but this book in particular really sets up the conditions that led to the problems faced during reconstruction and the eventual failure and abandonment of policies of racial equality leading into the jim crowe era. is also useful for undoing a lot of the misinformation surrounding the period, much of which has its origins in political propaganda of the time.
Dec 05, 2015 Kaiya rated it really liked it
This should probably be required reading for all Americans.
Jul 24, 2008 Tere rated it liked it
This was a "had to" read for me to prepare for summer school but I have to admit that I did enjoy it. Foner did a nice job of addressing all of the parties involved with a focus on the the class culture of the times. I learned a lot (it's been a long time since my high school American History class) and I feel much better prepared. Thanks to Maria for the recommendation.
Jun 22, 2009 Robyn rated it really liked it
I never had a chance to take Foner's course in college, so I wanted to be sure, with all this time on my hands, to tackle his tome on Reconstruction. Dense and depressing (especially the fact that so much of what was wrong with the country's politics then is still a problem today), but definitely worthwhile.
Aug 19, 2008 John rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The most remarkable thing about Forner’s very readable history is the apology at the end. On behalf of his profession, he apologizes for the perversions of fact that a few influential and well-placed southern academics used to twist the common memory of the reconstruction for better than a hundred years.
Shonda Wilson
Oct 27, 2013 Shonda Wilson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history-academic
An amazing and detailed account of the Reconstruction from the Emancipation Proclamation to 1877 and the "redemption" of the South by the Democratic party... great book, interesting scope and a more comprehensive look at the effects on national society, politics, and economics.
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Eric Foner is DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University, where he earned his B.A. and Ph.D. In his teaching and scholarship, Foner focuses on the Civil War and Reconstruction, slavery, and nineteenth-century America. His Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863–1877, won the Bancroft, Parkman, and Los Angeles Times Book prizes and remains the standard history of the p ...more
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