1877: America's Year of Living Violently

1877: America's Year of Living Violently

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by Michael A. Bellesiles
     
 

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In 1877, a decade after the Civil War, not only was the United States gripped by a deep depression, but the country was also in the throes of nearly unimaginable violence and upheaval marking the end of the brief period known as Reconstruction and a return to white rule across the South. In the wake of the contested presidential election of 1876, white supremacist

Overview

In 1877, a decade after the Civil War, not only was the United States gripped by a deep depression, but the country was also in the throes of nearly unimaginable violence and upheaval marking the end of the brief period known as Reconstruction and a return to white rule across the South. In the wake of the contested presidential election of 1876, white supremacist mobs swept across the South, killing and driving out the last of the Reconstruction state governments. A strike involving millions of railroad workers turned violent as it spread from coast-to-coast, and for a moment seemed close to toppling the nation’s economic structure.

In 1877, celebrated historian Michael Bellesiles reveals that the fires of that fated year also fueled a hothouse of cultural and intellectual innovation. Bellesiles relates the story of 1877 not just through dramatic events, but also through the lives of famous and little-known Americans.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
If you think the United States has problems today, try 1877. That single year, according to historian Bellesiles, saw an unprecedented surge in lynchings, racism, homicides, army attacks on Indians, labor violence (including a near national general strike), quack theories to explain it all, and a political crisis whose resolution on the backs of African-Americans scarred the nation until Johnson's Great Society. Offering a thorough review of this crisis-ridden year, Bellesiles, author of the controversial Arming America, makes the case that 1877 was also a year of breakthroughs in thought and creativity (Thomas Edison made the first voice recording, and Wannamaker's, the first department store, opened). But it is the violence that preoccupies the author, and he attributes it at least in part to Americans, in the midst of a depression, struggling "to come to terms with their new industrial society...." No reader will come away from this sobering work without a greater understanding of violence so extreme that contemporaries and numerous historians have commented on it (one historians called it "a symbol of shock, of the possible crumbling of society"). It's not easy reading, but it is solid, deeply informed history. (Aug.)
From the Publisher

"A superb and troubling book about the soul of Modern America."
—William Deverell, director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West

"A bold, insightful book, richly researched, and fast paced... Bellesiles vividly portrays on a single canvas the violent confrontations in 1877."
—Alfred F. Young, co-editor of Revolutionary Founders: The Promise of the American Revolution

"Every reader will be caught up in this powerful examination of a nation trying to make sense of the complex changes and challenges of the post-Civil War era."
—Carol Berkin, author of A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution and Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America's Independence

[A] wonderful read that is sure to appeal to those interested in the challenges of creating a post-Civil War society.
Choice

Library Journal
Emphasizing that America, despite its professed ideals, has an enduring legacy of antagonism toward "the other," the controversial Bellesiles (Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture) turns to a time of intense social, cultural, and intellectual turmoil in America. This was the year of the Great Railroad Strike, but Bellesiles also considers the impact of the disputed 1876 presidential election, the end of Reconstruction, economic depression, battles between the army and Plains Indians, and entrepreneurial events such as the forming of the Bell Telephone Association. Thus, he faces the challenge of making the case for one year being historically pivotal, even transformative. He sketches villains and heroes, famous and obscure, from Crazy Horse, Susan B. Anthony, and E.L. Godkin to the surprisingly radical Rutherford B. Hayes, women's health pioneer Mary Putnam Jacobi, and Louisiana black political activist Henry Adams, with the goal of letting them speak for themselves. He contends that class replaced race as the main area of American social conflict.Verdict Interested, discerning readers with backgrounds in history are invited to examine this work, which combines thematic, narrative, and interpretive strains, revealed in pungent and subjective phrasing. It can be compared to older titles such as Robert V. Bruce's 1877: Year of Violence and Philip Foner's The Great Labor Uprising of 1877.—Frederick J. Augustyn Jr., Library of Congress

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781595585943
Publisher:
New Press, The
Publication date:
08/10/2010
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
683,630
File size:
608 KB

Meet the Author

Michael Bellesiles teaches history at Central Connecticut State University. He is a nationally known historian who has been vilified, many think unfairly. This book will reestablish his reputation. He is the author of numerous books, including Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture. He lives in Connecticut.

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1877: America's Year of Living Violently 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
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