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In Commons Democracy, literary scholar Dana Nelson offers an alternative history of democracy in Revolutionary America. Nelson challenges the comforting narrative Americans like to tell themselves about the ‘Founders’ high-minded ideals and their careful crafting of the sage framework for democracy – a representative republican government’ (p. 3).
The remit of this book is seemingly straightforward and clear: its focus is on Roosevelt’s spoken words and the overall aim is to provide a detailed account of the president’s war years.
Does any political formation dominate its century of American history the way the New Deal dominates the 20th? Almost as soon as Franklin Roosevelt’s Brain Trust convened, the earlier Progressive movement was revised into the status of forerunner; for decades after the New Deal order began to disintegrate in the late 1960s, Americans lived in its historical debris.
One of the oldest and most familiar tropes in the historiography of the American Civil War argues that the conflict posed an urban industrial Union against a rural agricultural Confederacy.
The American Civil War led directly to the passage of the 13th Amendment and the abolition of chattel slavery in the United States. How that happened and why it took so long has been a matter of dispute ever since.
Given the volume of recent works produced on the anti-slavery movement of the 19th–century Atlantic world, it was time for someone to create a new synthesis. Manisha Sinha’s The Slave’s Cause is a synthetic work that traces the long trajectory of the anti-slavery movement in the United States and places it into an international context.
‘We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies’.(1) These famous lines from Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address serve as a stark point of contrast in the introduction of Damn Yankees! Demonization and Defiance in the Confederate South. For whilst Lincoln implored the nation to avoid violent confrontation, the war of words had already begun.
The years from 1840 to 1890 constituted a ‘golden age’ of turn out in American elections. Although only white men were assured of their votes, this period saw the highest rate of political participation among the eligible electorate, with roughly 70–80 per cent of voters casting ballots in Presidential elections; as compared to today’s figure of about 55 per cent.
When the United States goes to the polls this November to elect a new President many will think back nervously to the corresponding event 16 years ago. Memories of hanging chads, disenfranchised African Americans, weeks of political stalemate and a controversial decision by the Supreme Court will be re-awakened.
The mention of the Southern plantation tends to bring to mind one of two competing images: either the white-columned antebellum mansion and its manicured grounds, or the desolate home of African-American sharecroppers in the post-Civil War era.