Moralists and Modernizers: America's Pre-Civil War Reformers

Overview

The Decades before the Civil War saw the first secular efforts in history to remake society through reform. Reformers launched unprecedented campaigns to reform criminals and prostitutes, educate the deaf and the blind, guarantee women's rights, and abolish slavery. Our modern systems of free public schools, prisons, and hospitals for the mentally ill are all legacies of this era. Moralists and Modernizers tells the fascinating story of America's first age of reform, combining incisive portraits of leading ...
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Overview

The Decades before the Civil War saw the first secular efforts in history to remake society through reform. Reformers launched unprecedented campaigns to reform criminals and prostitutes, educate the deaf and the blind, guarantee women's rights, and abolish slavery. Our modern systems of free public schools, prisons, and hospitals for the mentally ill are all legacies of this era. Moralists and Modernizers tells the fascinating story of America's first age of reform, combining incisive portraits of leading reformers and movements with perceptive analyses of religion, politics, and society. Arguing that the reform impulse grew out of the era's peculiar mix of fear and hope, Steven Mintz shows that reform arose not only from fears of social disorder, family fragmentation, and widening class divisions but also from a millennialist sense of possibility rooted in new religious and philosophical ideas. He then examines three distinct responses to pre-Civil War America's pressing social problems. Moral reform sought to create a Christian moral order using moral suasion. Social reform combatted poverty, crime, and ignorance through new institutions offering nonauthoritarian forms of social control. Radical reform sought to regenerate American society by eliminating fundamental sources of inequality such as slavery and racial and sexual discrimination. In an epilogue, Mintz fits antebellum reform into the larger context of America's liberal tradition. Mintz concludes that America's pre-Civil War reformers were at once moral critics and cultural modernizers. As exponents of a distinctly modern set of values, reformers attacked outmoded customs, smoothed the transition from a preindustrial to an industrial order, and devised modern bureaucratic systems of criminal justice, public education, and social welfare. The first comprehensive account of antebellum reform to appear in twenty years, Moralists and Modernizers is a rich and rewarding work of synthesis and interpretati
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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Mintz (history, U. of Houston) chronicles America's first age of social reform with profiles of leading reformers and movements and analyses of religion, politics, and society. He examines moral reform, social reform, and radical reform as distinct responses to the country's pre-Civil War social problems, and concludes that reformers were both moral critics and cultural modernizers who smoothed the transition from a preindustrial to an industrial order. Paper edition (unseen), $13.95. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Choice

[A] well-written, attention-grabbing synethesis of the antebellum reform movement in the US... Mintz makes accessible to readers of all levels a good, solid historical study comparing all of these important movements.

Cross Currents: Religion and Intellectual Life
This text stands tall, offering historical perspective to issues that still baffle the American people and demonstrating how perennial are the battles for equal justice and social transformation.
Cross Currents: Religion and Intellectual Life
This text stands tall, offering historical perspective to issues that still baffle the American people and demonstrating how perennial are the battles for equal justice and social transformation.
Choice
[A] well-written, attention-grabbing synethesis of the antebellum reform movement in the US... Mintz makes accessible to readers of all levels a good, solid historical study comparing all of these important movements.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801850806
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/1995
  • Series: American Moment Series
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.28 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven Mintz is professor of history at the University of Houston. His books include A Prison of Expectations: The Family in Victorian Culture and Domestic Revolutions: A Social History of American Family Life.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

Editor's Foreword
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Ch. 1 The Specter of Social Breakdown 3
Ch. 2 The Promise of the Millennium 16
Ch. 3 Making the United States a Christian Republic: The Politics of Virtue 50
Ch. 4 The Science of Doing Good: Creating Crucibles of Moral Character 79
Ch. 5 Breaking the Bonds of Corrupt Custom 117
Epilogue: Antebellum Reform and the American Liberal Tradition 154
Bibliographical Essay 157
Index 173
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