In the half-century between the Civil War and World War I, dreams of spiritual, moral, and physical rebirth formed the foundation for the modern United States. Inspired by imperial ambition, presidents and entrepreneurs-from Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson to Andrew Carnegie-helped usher the nation into the modern era, but sometimes the consequences of their actions failed to match the grandeur of their hopes.
Award-winning historian Jackson Lears richly chronicles this momentous period in America-years marked by wrenching social conflict and vigorous political debate-vividly capturing the roles played by a variety of seekers, from Gilded Age mavericks to vaudeville entertainers, and from populist farmers and progressive reformers to avant-garde artists and writers. Illuminating and authoritative, Rebirth of a Nation brilliantly weaves the remarkable story of this crucial epoch into a masterful work of history.
About the Author
Jackson Lears is Board of Governors Professor of History at Rutgers University and the editor of Raritan: A Quarterly Review. The author of Fables of Abundance (winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for history), Something for Nothing, and No Place of Grace, Lears writes for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The New Republic. He lives in western New Jersey.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Dreaming of Rebirth 1
Chapter 1 The Long Shadow of Appomattox 12
Chapter 2 The Mysterious Power of Money 51
Chapter 3 The Rising Significance of Race 92
Chapter 4 The Country and the City 133
Chapter 5 Crisis and Regeneration 167
Chapter 6 Liberation and Limitation 222
Chapter 7 Empire as a Way of Life 276
Conclusion: Dying in Vain 327
Bibliographical Note 391
What People are Saying About This
“A remarkable book. . . . As Jackson Lears demonstrates again, he is one of the best of his (and my) generation of historians.”
“Jackson Lears has become the historian of American yearning. . . . He excels at the miniature portrait, and his richly associative imagination enables him to make telling use of the Cecil B. De Mille-sized case he assembled for Rebirth of a Nation.”
“Jackson Lears is a formidable, compellingly original cultural and intellectual historian. . . . Rebirth of a Nation is Lears’ most ambitious work yet, and it builds brilliantly on his earlier projects. . . . Lears’ convincing new narrative of this pivotal half century never falters.”
“Jackson Lears is one of the few pre-eminent historians of our time. As we dream for a rebirth of America in the age of Obama, this magnificent and magisterial book on the making of modern America could not be more timely. Don’t miss it!”
“In Rebirth of a Nation, Jackson Lears, our most stimulating historian of American culture, outdoes himself, offering a stunning interpretive synthesis on politics, culture, and social upheaval in the pivotal half-century when ideals of regeneration assumed their modern shape, sometimes as imperial bombast, sometimes as designs for reform.”
“In this sweeping and charged history, Jackson Lears brilliantly evokes a defining era in American history. He recasts what we have blandly called the ‘Gilded Age,’ revealing a time of profound change, sharp conflict, and enduring consequence.”
“Jackson Lears, America’s premier cultural historian, has written the smartest and most illuminating survey of this roaring, perplexing era since Richard Hofstadter’s The Age of Reform.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Lears looks at America from the end of the Civil War to the end of WWI. Here was the rise of corporate industrialism along with the efforts of farmers and laborers to oppose the plutocrats of industrial wealth. America also retreated from isolationism to fight a war with Spain (which gave the country a foreign empire) and to join the Allies is WWI. Lears is an unabashed advocate of people without wealth at home and of peace abroad.This period has been surveyed many times by American historians. Lears furthers our knowledge by incorporating a detailed look at the commercial advertising of the era. And the George Bush II administration seems to have opened the way for left-leaning historians to be critical not only of the saber-rattling of Teddy Roosevelt but also of the international idealism of Woodrow Wilson.Lears provides an informed, opinionated, courageous, and sometimes unusually insightful description of the era that will appeal most intensely to latter-day populists and pacifists, but will inform everyone. Here Lears is perhaps not quite so brilliant as he was in "No Place of Grace", but he has produced a valuable and well-argued interpretation of the birth of the corporate, capitalist, militarist America that we know today.
This book takes up the topic of American political and cultural thought between the period in history bounded by the end of the Civil War and the creation of the League of Nations. Portrayed as a series of tensions (urban vs rural, labor vs industry, hawk vs dove, immigration and race relations) the author examines various topics that helped to propel the United States in to the "modern" world. I was particularly drawn to this book because I hoped it would help me to understand a period in history of the United States for which there seems to be relatively little written when compared to topics such as the Civil War and World War II. This book is not a "light read". I found it to be well written and the author sent me to the dictionary on several occasions (which I judge to be a good thing). The chapters tended to be rather long and there were a couple of occasions where I found my thoughts drifting but on the whole, the author kept my attention and I feel I have a better understanding of the period for my efforts.