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What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815 - 1848

(The Oxford History of the United States #5)

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  7,752 ratings  ·  401 reviews
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 expanded to the Pacific and won control ...more
Hardcover, 904 pages
Published October 29th 2007 by Oxford University Press, USA
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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
Dec 15, 2015 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 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-history
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
Apr 05, 2008 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
Jun 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848
by Daniel Walker Howe

The invention of electric telegraphy, coming near the close of the period treated here, represented a climactic moment in the widespread revolution of communications. Other features of this revolution included improvements in printing and paper manufacturing; the multiplication of newspapers, magazines, and books; and the expansion of the postal system (which mostly carried newspapers and commercial business, to
James Thane
May 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
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
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 lot
Jan 25, 2011 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
Jun 29, 2015 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
Christopher Saunders
Even by the Oxford History of the United States' standards, What Hath God Wrought is an impressive work of history. Howe covers the period between the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, thirty-three years in which America experienced its most pronounced growing pains, transforming from a small, struggling, largely agrarian country ruled by elites to a continental power, increasingly urban and industrialized, tentatively democratic - and riven, as ever, with political discord. Howe, who's written p ...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
Mar 30, 2008 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
Oct 22, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Jan 31, 2010 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
Nov 30, 2008 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
Mar 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Daniel Walker Howe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Transformation of America, 1815-1848” is an instructive volume. It reinforces a changed outlook on America that I have developed over a number of years. With age and wider reading, I have moved from feelings of naïve, even childish, patriotism into an outlook of deep cynicism. Despite our overblown rhetoric, much of U.S. history is a deplorable epic of greed and exploitation. Howe exposes this disappointing reality in detail. Our 19th century was ...more
Jan 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Incredible! I can't believe how often what I was reading came up in everyday conversation. My views of presidents was shaped and altered. My heart broke all over again for the awfulness of slavery and the cowardly acts that allowed it to remain in place for too long. I especially enjoyed sections/chapters on religious history, immigration, and women's suffrage. I'm an amateur history enthusiast, therefore there were characters and events that went over my head, but all in all the story was easy ...more
Michael Austin
Dec 08, 2012 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
Jul 13, 2011 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
Larry Bassett
Mar 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, history
I think I am being somewhat generous in giving this book four stars. As many books that cover historical periods rely on political history, this book does likewise. But it does cover non-political history much better than many.

It talks about the fact that transportation and communication improved greatly during this 33 year period of history. And I suppose from the title it might not be surprising that there is considerable focus on religion and churches and their impact during this time. Althou
Feb 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, nonfiction
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
Sep 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a big book that covers a very busy period in American History.
Very well written, one of the top books of all time that I have read.
I learned so much and enjoyed this book immensely.
Howe does have his biases, but I agree with him on the atrocities that our country committed during this time period in the name of the white male.
Jeremy Perron
Jul 24, 2012 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
Lars Guthrie
Jan 03, 2010 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
robin friedman
May 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Daniel Walker Howe On The Transformation Of America

In "What Hath God Wrought" historian Daniel Walker Howe offers a learned and judicious overview of the political and cultural history of the United States between 1815 -- 1848 which he aptly describes as "The Transformation of America". The book covers the history of the United States beginning with Andrew Jackson's triumph at the Battle of New Orleans and concludes with the War with Mexico. I came to this book after reading a similarly through
This is a great work of history in all senses - nearly a thousand pages, but it flies by. Though it is part of the Official-sounding series Oxford History of the United States, it is emancipated from any staid textbook flatness by Howe's skills as a storyteller, and, even more so, by the frankness of his ideological convictions and opinions. But even as it is emancipated by its ideology, it is hamstrung by its partisanship.

A prefatory word, then, on the distinction between the ideologue and the
Jan 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, favorites
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
Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
This is part of my "Read the entire OUP History of America series in 2018" challenge. It's my favorite so far and is a very good summary of the time (admittedly this period isn't my bailiwick). It refreshed my memory and provided me with new insights into the period, and to the extent 800ish pages can cover several decades, it did a great job (but naturally things will be left out or simplified). I mean, it's a survey. That's what surveys do.

But. I can't think of a more timely and useful read fo
Mar 10, 2013 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
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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

Other books in the series

The Oxford History of the United States (10 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 Republic for Which It Stands: The United States during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896
  • Reawakened Nation: The Birth of Modern America, 1896-1929 (Oxford History of the United States, Vol. 8)
  • Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945
  • Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974
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  • From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776

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“History works on a long time scale, and at any given moment we can perceive its directions but imperfectly.” 1 likes
“Jackson possessed an appeal not based on issues; it derived from his image as a victor in battle, a frontiersman who had made it big, a man of decision who forged his own rules. Anyone with a classical education knew to regard such men as potential demagogues and tyrants; the word for the danger was “caesarism.” Jefferson delivered a straightforward opinion of Jackson’s presidential aspirations: “He is one of the most unfit men I know of for such a place.”7 In fact, no one liked Jackson for president except the voting public. Many of the latter, however, found in him a celebrity hero. The fact that only men could vote probably helped Jackson. Many” 1 likes
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