America in the Age of Jackson
By David S. Reynolds
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780060826567, 480pp.)
Publication Date: October 1, 2008
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America experienced unprecedented expansion and turmoil in the years between 1815 and 1848. In Waking Giant, Bancroft Prize-winning historian and literary critic David S. Reynolds illuminates the period's exciting political story as well as the fascinating social and cultural movements that influenced it. He casts fresh light on Andrew Jackson, who redefined the presidency, along with John Quincy Adams and James K. Polk, who expanded the nation's territory and strengthened its position internationally.
Waking Giant captures the turbulence of a democracy caught in the throes of the controversy over slavery, the rise of capitalism, and the birth of urbanization. Reynolds reveals unknown dimensions of the Second Great Awakening with its sects, cults, and self-styled prophets. He brings to life the reformers, abolitionists, and temperance advocates who struggled to correct America's worst social ills. He uncovers the political roots of some of America's greatest authors and artists, from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Edgar Allan Poe to Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand, and he reveals the shocking phenomena that marked the age: bloody duels and violent mobs, P. T. Barnum's freaks and all-seeing mesmerists, polygamous prophets and wealthy prostitutes, table-lifting spiritualists and rabble-rousing feminists. All were crucial to the political and social ferment that led to the Civil War.
Meticulously researched and masterfully written, Waking Giant is a brilliant chronicle of America's vibrant and tumultuous rise.