Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877” as Want to Read:
Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877

(The New American Nation Series)

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  4,739 ratings  ·  244 reviews
This "masterful treatment of one of the most complex periods of American history" (New Republic) made history when it was originally published in 1988. It redefined how Reconstruction was viewed by historians and people everywhere in its chronicling of how Americans -- black and white -- responded to the unprecedented changes unleashed by the war and the end of slavery. Th ...more
Paperback, 690 pages
Published February 5th 2002 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published 1988)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Reconstruction, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Reconstruction

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.14  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,739 ratings  ·  244 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877
Oct 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Review to come. I need time to recover from this book! It may be a five-star book, but I don't possess a five-star mind.

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times, and then it got even worse. This sort of sums up Eric Foner's sad tale of the optimism generated at the start of America's Reconstruction after the Civil War and emancipation of all slaves. At the start, a "Freedman's Bureau" was set up to assist newly-freed blacks in areas such as gaining literacy and a general education, th

How to do justice to this extraordinary scholarly work? The erudition, the level of detailed evidence that Eric Foner marshals, the clear, inescapable logic of his narrative left me in awe. With nearly every page I felt another layer of preconception peeling away. And with nearly every page I found myself understanding more about the society that the war and its aftermath shaped. I’m now convinced that when people talk of the legacy of slavery i
I was reading Battle Cry of Freedom and noticed that Frederick Douglass was cited saying "Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters, U.S.; let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, and there is no power on earth which can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship" (p564) and I wondered if the greatest enemy that black people and perhaps other groups also excluded from full citizenship in the USA and other countries is op ...more
Sherm Davis
Nov 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hist-pol-econ
The further I get into this book, the more I realize that we have virtually no understanding as a culture of one of the most important periods in American history. Typically, we learn that Lincoln freed the slaves, United the Union once again, and we all lived happily ever after. This book fills in those gaps, beginning with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, and traces not only the difficulties of freedmen in their quest for any sort of political of civil equality, but also the prevailing s ...more
Simon Wood
Jul 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing

Foners excellent book is a masterfull historical synthesis of the period known as Reconstruction after the American Civil War (1861-65).

The book is extremely readable, comprehensive and full of intelligent analysis of the social, cultural, racial and economic forces of the era amply illustrated with pertinent quotes from all those involved. The situation after the end of the civil war when the defeated south was occupied by the Union Army is one that I knew li
May 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To use words like "masterful" or "thorough" to describe Eric Foner's "Reconstruction" is to give too little credit to what is truly an earth shattering contribution to American historical thought.

"Reconstruction" is a landmark historical account of one of the most misunderstood and maligned periods in American history. Using in depth archival study, Foner reconstructs Reconstruction showing how the newly formed Republican party became weighed down by its own corruption and silenced the radicals
Czarny Pies
Nov 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-history
Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877 is an uninformative slog which paradoxically is still deserving of the all the many prizes it received when it was published in 1988. It won awards because of its brilliant description of the political process of the reconstruction. It is uninformative because it addresses none of the social, industrial, economic, cultural and agricultural issues involved in the Reconstruction that would interest a member of the general public.
Foner deals
Aug 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I found this an excellent book on an important time in American history that still impacts race equality and relations to this day. It is a book designed to appeal to real history buffs though. It is incredibly comprehensive with almost half of the total pages of the book devoted to will researched footnotes. More like a text book or encyclopedia entry on the subject than a casual read. I became aware not long after leaving a public high school in Texas when my family moved to the San Francisco ...more
Jeremy Perron
Aug 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Reconstruction Period in American history is the era that is probably the most misunderstood. The view of this historical event has taken such a complete and utter transformation as historians have been interpreting and reinterpreting it over the years that truth is often hard to separate from the myth. Half way through the Civil War the U.S. government needs to come up with a way to bring back the rebel states into the Union on the government's terms. The people for whom this would have the ...more
David Bates
May 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The capstone of the revisionist interpretation of Reconstruction was Eric Foner’s 1989 work Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, fittingly replacing Dunning’s 1907 Reconstruction: Political and Economic in the updated round of works in the New American Nation series. Foner coupled the synthesis of a generation of scholarship with copious original research in Southern archives inaccessible to Du Bois. Nevertheless Foner echoed many of Du Bois’ themes, a harmonizing born not ...more
Dec 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is dense and long, but so important. If we don't know the tragic history of Reconstruction, we cannot understand this country and we are bound to keep making mistakes.
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
A fairly detailed history of the Reconstruction era in the south after the civil war. A period almost as polarized and contentious as any in American history. It was a period of great progress for African-Americans being freed from slavery but engendered bitter anger in southern whites and growing movement of Redeemers who wanted to return to race relations of the antebellum slavery era. They would close this hopeful window for African-Americans and eventually push down African-Americans with gr ...more
J.M. Hushour
Sep 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lord knows why the goddamn Civil War still carries the fresh-faced resonance that it does. You'll meet all sorts of wackos spouting nonsense about it. Shit, I live in the Pacific Northwest and see morons with Confederate flag stickers on their giant, superfluously-sized exhaust piped trucks even though Washington State is about as far from the south as you can get.
People, I guess, will never cease to be stupid. One of my favorite ironies of the Civil War is when people say it wasn't about slaver
Alan Johnson
I gradually read Eric Foner's comprehensive Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, updated ed. (New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2014) on Kindle over a period of several months. The first edition was published in 1988. It is not possible to capture adequately in this review the breadth of Foner's research and analysis. Suffice it to say that he covers probably every important political, social, and economic development, both in the North and the South, during the ...more
Jan 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
Considering the Reconstruction was one of the most important time periods of American history, it is amazing that the average person knows almost nothing about it (including me before reading this book). This book contains an exhaustive, inclusive, and thorough examination of the Reconstruction including the policies, the reactions of the North and the South, and the plight of the freedmen from the freedmen’s perspective. This will be the only book you’ll ever need to read on the Reconstruction, ...more
Donald Powell
This is the definitive memorandum of the Reconstruction Era. It is incredibly researched and documented. This book was very objective and precise. He does shade the truth. It is very detailed and trying to read it like a textbook was slow going. There are too many people, factions and issues in play to keep it all straight without a lot of back and forth and re-reading sections. Mr. Foner dug deep to follow the actions and motivations of the major players, particularly those in presidential poli ...more
Dec 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
This is a subject that is of great importance, and unfortunately often neglected for the sexiness of the Civil War. This work of Foner's is the place to go, if one wishes to read a comprehensive survey of Reconstruction. In this lengthy volume, Foner dives into political, economic, military, social and legal history which leaves the reader with a great foundation for further study or discussion. In my view, it is essential to have a very good grasp of the Civil War prior to reading this, for it ...more
David Withun
Dec 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Adam Shields
Aug 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short Review: This is an era that I just didn't have much historical background on. This was the book that several people recommended to me as the best starting place. I picked up the audiobook because that is what is most likely to get done quickly. The audiobook is the first edition. I would have preferred a later edition because I would like to think some of the repetition and was cleaned up. But I don't know.

The audiobook was poorly done. Lots of mispronounced words, bad editing and uneven
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A lengthy look at the era of Reconstruction after the American Civil War. As a history nerd I enjoyed it, especially the look at the transformation of the party of Abraham Lincoln, defenders of equality and the need to intervene in social affairs, to a pro-business and conservative party favouring as little government as possible. It truly is an unfinished revolution.
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Vitally important account of a largely-forgotten and/or misunderstood period of American history, as important as the Civil War itself.
Jul 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So incredibly dense and well researched. I bought myself a butt pillow as a present for completing this book. I now feel like I know a little bit less than nothing about this time in our country's history, but in other ways I am just gleaning the surface.
Christopher Fons
This is one of those books that, excuse the cliche, shifted the paradigm. Before Foner's work most history teachers taught the story of Reconstruction as a tragedy and a horrible ordeal for the poor defeated white people of the South who had to live under "Negro rule": the Union army, the corrupt carpetbagger, and the detestable scalawag in alliance with the ignorant freedmen after the Civil War. You may have seen this treatment in DW Driffith's classic film Birth of a Nation. Yes, it is a glori ...more
Dec 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
First, Grant was NOT an "unsung hero of Reconstruction." The fact that he signed off on Congressional appropriations that continued to downsize the Army, refused to send additional troops to Reconstruction states, and had to be prodded into action to take action against specific acts of violence, etc., should refute that fact.

Second, related to that, the GOP bears ultimate blame. True, Andrew Johnson's impeachment charges were trumped up. But that fact was no excuse to retreat so abruptly from
Charles Gonzalez
One of the best books on our American history, period. It is powerful and timely in so many ways, connecting our Revolutionary past and its devil like deal with slavery to the ultimate and necessary Civil War. Foner makes Reconstruction to be the almost necessary result of wartime and immediate post war focus on the rights of African Americans and the greater integration of the rebelmstatesminto the American union. While Reconstruction itself was a massively important and up heaving phenomena, i ...more
Michael Loveless
Feb 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Eric Foner's book on Reconstruction is exhaustive and exhausting. If you are a history professional or someone who can't get enough history, you may want to read it. Some history books tell a story and are intended for a popular audience. Other history books are written for more scholarly purposes. They contribute to the knowledge base on a particular topic and are primarily written for other scholars. This book belongs to the second category.

I'm glad I read it, and I'm glad I'm done reading it
Mar 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: US History lovers, sociologists, poli sci majors, political junkies
Anyone with an interest in American history will enjoy this; it's incredibly well researched (from letters, newspapers and origninal sources in state archives throughout the south that had apparently never been tapped for this degree of scholarship) and despite its scope I found it to be a page turner. All the things that the Civil War didn't resolve - what Emancipation means, what is the role of non-whites in civil society, how a society heals itself of a 250-year-history of moral depravity, ho ...more
Mar 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is an essential (but long) book of American History. This book came out in the late 1980s - I wish I had read it then. The book is not limited to the political reconstruction in the South, but includes the economics of the US after the Civil War, studies of Presidents Johnson and Grant, Labor History, and the effect of reconstruction in the North. The author both synthesizes the best historical research about the period and includes significant research from original sources (the footnotes ...more
Steve Davis
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A detailed study of Reconstruction it is a well documented history. This narrative of Reconstruction begins in 1863. It includes many personal stories of the men and women who tied to reshape our society. It was a time of struggle with competing interests and power relationships. It is an important history, a period often falsely represented and remembered by those who want to believe fantasy or cast a point of view at odds with the truth. It is a sad truth and no one can learn the reality of th ...more
Isaac Levey
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is a magnificent work. It not only tells, in clear, patient prose, this horrible story, but it powerfully delivers the message of that story's relevance to our world. Reconstruction may have been our nation's only chance to reckon with its slavery-based origins, and to fully make an accounting for our sins. Foner explains, in excruciating detail, how and why these efforts failed, but also the ways in which they succeeded, in each State.

Every American should have an understanding of Rec
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
ISO historic fiction on American Reconstruction 4 2 Sep 21, 2019 10:15PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815
  • Parting the Waters: Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement 1954-63
  • Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory
  • Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945
  • What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815 - 1848
  • Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880
  • American Slavery, American Freedom
  • The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution
  • Battle Cry of Freedom
  • Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance
  • American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic
  • Don't Know Much about History: Everything You Need to Know about American History But Never Learned
  • The Radicalism of the American Revolution
  • American Colonies: The Settling of North America
  • The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation
  • The Civil War, Vol. 3: Red River to Appomattox
  • Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974
  • Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power
See similar books…
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

Other books in the series

The New American Nation Series (1 - 10 of 35 books)
  • The Indian in America
  • North America From Earliest Discovery To First Settlements: The Norse Voyages To 1612
  • Spain in America
  • France In America
  • Founding The American Colonies, 1583 1660 (The New American Nation Series)
  • The Colonies in Transition, 1660-1713 (The New American Nation Series)
  • The Cultural Life of the American Colonies
  • The Rise of the West, 1754-1830
  • The Coming of the Revolution 1763-1775
  • The Forging of the Union, 1781-1789

News & Interviews

Contemporary young adult literature has often led the way in depicting the real-life issues facing teens from all backgrounds. To delve into ho...
38 likes · 3 comments
“Frederick Douglass, who had encountered racism even within abolitionist ranks, considered Lincoln a fundamentally decent individual. “He treated me as a man,” Douglass remarked in 1864, “he did not let me feel for a moment that there was any difference in the color of our skins.” 5 likes
“Black troops helped construct schools, churches, and orphanages, organized debating societies, and held political gatherings where “freedom songs” were sung and soldiers delivered “speeches of the most inflammatory kind.” 3 likes
More quotes…