The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States During Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896 - Richard White
The Oxford History of the United States series (to which magna opera such as McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom and Gordon Wood’s Empire of Liberty belong) marks its latest installment, The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States During Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896 (Oxford, $35). The volume begins with the funeral of Lincoln—compared to whom the presidents that follow are disappointing in all but their facial hair—and continues through the 1876 election. A Stanford historian of Native Americans and the American West, Richard White deftly dismantles the stock cutouts of lone robber barons that have long populated this “historical flyover country.” With lively prose, ambitious scope, and an all-too keen sense of irony, he gives us a vivid depiction of an age of contradictions. White considers Reconstruction and the Gilded Age to have “gestated together” on sublime post-Civil War ideals, both quickly scaled back “to the unforgiving metrics of recalcitrant reality.” With balanced, tenderly evoked portraits of the “uncommon men and women,” the dizzying spin of technological progress, political corruption, immigration, urbanization, Westward expansion, crusading causes, economic inequality, and high-minded hope, are brought to a pace at which we can make out the foundations of the similarly complex epoch we now inhabit.