A Nation Rising: Untold Tales of Flawed Founders, Fallen Heroes, and Forgotten Fighters from America's Hidden History

A Nation Rising: Untold Tales of Flawed Founders, Fallen Heroes, and Forgotten Fighters from America's Hidden History

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by Kenneth C. Davis
     
 

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Following his New York Times bestseller America's Hidden History, Kenneth C. Davis explores the gritty first half of the nineteenth century—among the most tumultuous periods in this nation's short life.

In the dramatic period that spans roughly from 1800 through 1850, the United States emerged from its

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Overview

Following his New York Times bestseller America's Hidden History, Kenneth C. Davis explores the gritty first half of the nineteenth century—among the most tumultuous periods in this nation's short life.

In the dramatic period that spans roughly from 1800 through 1850, the United States emerged from its inauspicious beginning as a tiny newborn nation, struggling for survival and political cohesion on the Atlantic seaboard, to a near-empire that spanned the continent. It was a time in which the "dream of our founders" spread in ways that few men of that Revolutionary Generation could possibly have imagined. And it was an era that ultimately led to the great, tragic conflagration that followed—the American Civil War.

The narratives that form A Nation Rising each exemplify the "hidden history" of America, exploring a vastly more complex path to nationhood than the tidily packaged national myth of a destiny made manifest by visionary political leaders and fearless pioneers. Instead, Davis (whose writing People magazine compared to "returning to the classroom of the best teacher you ever had") explores many historical episodes that reverberate to this day, including

  • Aaron Burr's 1807 trial, showcasing the political intrigue of the early Republic and becoming one of our nation's first media circuses
  • an 1813 Indian uprising and an ensuing massacre that exposes the powerful conflicts at the heart of America's expansion
  • a mutiny aboard the slave ship Creole and the ways in which the institution of slavery both destroyed lives and warped our nation's founding
  • the "Dade Massacre" and the start of the second Seminole War, a long, deadly conflict between Indian tribes, their African American allies, and the emergent U.S. Army
  • the bloody "Bible Riots" in Philadelphia, demonstrating how deadly anti-immigrant sentiment could be
  • the story of Jessie Benton Frémont and Lt. John C. Frémont, a remarkable couple who together helped open the West, bring California into the Union, and gave literal shape to the nation today

The issues raised in these intertwined stories—ambition, power, territorial expansion, slavery, intolerance, civil rights, freedom of the press—continue to make headlines. The resulting book is not only riveting storytelling in its own right, but a stirring reminder of the ways in which our history continues to shape our present.

Editorial Reviews

Don't Know Much About mentor Kenneth C. Davis is the history teacher you always wanted to have. His popular probes into hidden history have brightened the weekends of thousands of reluctant students. His new book, A Nation Rising, focuses on six episodes that seldom get mentioned at Fourth of July celebrations and White House receptions. Among the incidents are Aaron Burr's 1807 treason arrest, an 1835 Seminole massacre, the Nativist Bible Riots of 1844, and Jesse Fremont's 1849 journey across the Panama isthmus. Offbeat readings for history buffs.

Booklist
“Davis is a fine writer who uses a fast-moving narrative to tell these stories well... This is an informative and enjoyable work.”
Ray Raphael
“With his special gift for revealing the significance of neglected historical characters, Kenneth Davis creates a multi-layered, haunting narrative.”
Ron Powers
Praise for America’s Hidden History:“American history in the vibrant narrative tradition of David McCullough.”
Library Journal
Davis (Don't Know Much About History) shifts gears slightly to identify obscure personalities and the darker side of American leaders, from Colonial America to the dawn of the 20th century. The strongest chapter begins with Aaron Burr's trial for treason and reflects on the rise of the nation. The flaws that Davis exposes include slave-owning Founding Fathers, Jackson's embracing Indian removal, and Lincoln's supporting the cause of returning slaves to Africa, then considered an enlightened solution. He also explores the wars of expansion, and, through Jessie Fremont, John Fremont's brave and capable wife, the notion of manifest destiny. Lastly, he looks at xenophobia through the Nativist riots of post-Civil War America. Davis likes comparisons: the Fort Mims massacre to 9/11, Iraq to manifest destiny. In a text that is very readable if not so tautly edited, Davis clearly enjoys his role as history teacher to nonhistorians. VERDICT Those who know their American history will find nothing new in this light and revisionist companion to standard history texts. Best for public and high school libraries.—Robert Moore, Lantheus Medical Imaging, North Billerica, MA
Kirkus Reviews
Don't Know Much About series creator Davis (America's Hidden History, 2008, etc.) examines six little-known episodes that influenced American history. By now the author's formula is familiar-seize a small or misunderstood incident from America's past, identify it as a precursor to or emblematic of a better-known event and use it to illustrate larger themes that have altered the nation's course. Focusing on the period between Jefferson's 1800 election and California's 1850 statehood, Davis looks at Aaron Burr's 1807 arrest for treason, the 1818 Creek attack on Fort Mims, the 1841 revolt aboard the slave ship Creole, the Seminole massacre of Major Francis Dade's relief column in 1835, the Nativist inspired Bible Riots in 1844 Philadelphia and the harrowing journey of Jesse Fremont across Panama's isthmus in 1849. In breezily entertaining fashion, the author does just fine when he confines himself to the details of each episode. Beyond that, these historical vignettes aren't exactly revelatory. Even casual students understand the gap between America's ideals and practice. For whom, any longer, is it news that America's presidents have frequently abused their power, that the nation has sometimes made war for ignoble purposes, that our history is marred by various eruptions of religious strife, that slavery, our intolerance of immigrants, and our shameful treatment of Native Americans continue to haunt our present? The narrative suffers, as well, when Davis attempts comparisons to contemporary events. Readers may be persuaded that Jefferson's pursuit of Burr is analogous to Nixon's efforts to destroy political enemies or to the Bush administration's so-called outing of Valerie Plame, but baldassertion makes neither proposition true. This is history-lite, misleading to those who know too little, harmless to those who know enough. Mostly engaging but rarely edifying. Author appearances in New York, Philadelphia, Vermont, Washington, D.C. Agent: David Black/David Black Literary Agency

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061118203
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
05/11/2010
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
9.00(w) x 6.00(h) x 1.20(d)

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Meet the Author

Kenneth C. Davis is the bestselling author of America’s Hidden History and Don’t Know Much About® History, which spent thirty-five consecutive weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, has sold nearly 1.6 million copies, and gave rise to his phenomenal Don’t Know Much About® series for adults and children.

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