America in the Age of Jackson
By David S. Reynolds
Harper, Hardcover, 9780060826567, 480pp.
Publication Date: October 1, 2008
List Price: $29.95*
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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.
“Bancroft Prize winner Reynolds has produced a thorough chronicle of America from 1815 to 1848. . . . His book will appeal to general history buffs and American studies students. Highly recommended.”
“Offers a fine addition to the literature on pre-Civil War American history in this account of the years 1815-1848. . . Even knowledgable readers will relish the chapters on social history. . . . Reynolds delivers a straightforward, insightful history of America during its bumptious adolescence.”
“Kaleidoscopic. . . . The result of Reynolds’ research is a happy mosaic of an era that may well be, just as the author suggests, the ‘richest’ in American history.”
-The Wall Street Journal
“As David Reynolds shows in his astute and concise history of the period, Waking Giant, the times defined Jackson as much as he defined the times.”
“An engaging new book. . . . Waking Giant is at its most entertaining when Reynolds sifts through the nonpolitical world, tracking the rise of abolitionists, feminists, utopians, union leaders, and more than a few crackpots.”
-The Christian Science Monitor
“Reynolds writes history as entertainingly as anyone out there and Waking Giant is no exception.”
-The Providence Journal
“A remarkable synthesis, impressive on many levels. . . . Reynolds applies his vast erudition to a period too often treated as mere prelude to the country’s most destructive war. . . . Reynolds is most adept handling the period’s art and literature. . . .”
-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Mr. Reynolds brings this remarkable man to life. . . . A terrific introduction of succinct length to a period in our history that was once ignored, a period increasingly recognized as a time when the foundations of much of modern America were laid.”
-John Steele Gordon, The New York Times
“Reynolds asks us to more carefully consider the brawling, chaotic, boisterous years from 1815 to 1848 as a fascinating age in its own right. In this he succeeds handsomely. . . . Engaging and insightful.”
-Jay Winik, The New York Times Book Review
“Excellent. . . . Outstanding. . . . Expansive. . . . Jackson and his presidency figure large in Mr. Reynolds’ account.”
-The Dallas Morning News
“It’s Reynolds’s depiction of an exploding popular culture that makes Waking Giant an unmitigated delight. . . . An intellectual history and group portrait of America turning from a republic to a popular democracy during the Age of Jackson.”
-Douglas Brinkley, The Washington Post Book World
“Excellent. . . . Outstanding. . . . Expansive. . . . Jackson and his presidency figure large in Reynolds’ account.”
-The Philadelphia Inquirer
“A really good volume of history provides the reader with a keen sense of perspective and a genuine appreciation of the past. This is exactly what David S. Reynolds does in Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson.”
“A lively account. . . . Reynolds devotes close to half the text to an illuminating appreciation of the Jacksonian influence on literature and art, with shorter discussions on religion and popular fads.”
-The Boston Globe