Rebirth of a Nation
The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920
By Jackson Lears
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780060747497, 432pp.)
Publication Date: June 2009
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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In the half-century between the Civil War and World War I, widespread yearning for a new beginning permeated American public life. Dreams of spiritual, moral, and physical rebirth formed the foundation for the modern United States, inspiring its leaders with imperial ambition. Theodore Roosevelt's desire to recapture frontier vigor led him to promote U.S. interests throughout Latin America. Woodrow Wilson's vision of a reborn international order drew him into a war to end war. Andrew Carnegie's embrace of philanthropy coincided with his creation of the world's first billion-dollar corporation, United States Steel. Presidents and entrepreneurs 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 when America reunited and began to form the world power of the twentieth century. Lears vividly captures imperialists, Gilded Age mavericks, and vaudeville entertainers, and illuminates the roles played by a variety of seekers, male and female, from populist farmers to avant-garde artists and writers to progressive reformers. Some were motivated by their own visions of Christianity; all were swept up in longings for revitalization.
In these years marked by wrenching social conflict and vigorous political debate, a modern America emerged and came to dominance on a world stage. Illuminating and authoritative, Rebirth of a Nation brilliantly weaves the remarkable story of this crucial epoch into a masterful work of history.
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.
“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.”
-Tim Rutten, The Los Angeles Times
“A fascinating cultural history. . . .A major work by a leading historian at the top of his game—at once engaging and tightly argued. Like the best histories, it is also a book that speaks to our own time.”
-The New York Times Book Review
“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 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.”
-Edward L. Ayers, University of Richmond
“High-concept cultural history at its provocative best. Lears is a polymath and Big Thinker.”
“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.”
-Michael Kazin, author of A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan and professor of history, Georgetown University
“A remarkable book. . . . As Jackson Lears demonstrates again, he is one of the best of his (and my) generation of historians.”
-David Nasaw, The American Prospect
“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.”
“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.”
-Patricia O'Toole, The American Scholar