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The Great Heart of the Republic: St. Louis and the Cultural Civil Warby Adam Arenson
Synopses & Reviews
The Civil War revealed what united as well as what divided Americans in the nineteenth century--not only in its deadly military conflict, but also in the broader battle of ideas, dueling moral systems, and competing national visions that preceded and followed. This cultural civil war was the clash among North, South, and West, as their leaders sought to shape Manifest Destiny and slavery politics.
No site embodied this struggle more completely than St. Louis, the largest city along the border of slavery and freedom. In this sweeping history, Adam Arenson reveals a city at the heart of the cultural civil war. St. Louisans heralded a new future, erasing old patterns as the United States stretched across the continent. They tried to reorient the nation's political landscape, with westerners in the vanguard and St. Louis as the cultural, commercial, and national capital. John C. Calhoun, Frederick Douglass, Walt Whitman, and John Brown tracked the progress of the cultural contest by monitoring events in St. Louis, observing how the city's leaders tried yet ultimately failed to control the national destiny.
The interplay of local ambitions and national meanings reveals the wider cultural transformation brought about by westward expansion, political strife, and emancipation in the era of the Civil War and Reconstruction. This vibrant and beautifully written story enriches our understanding of America at a crossroads.
Book News Annotation:
This history of nineteenth century St. Louis examines the city's unique place at the cultural and literal crossroads of the North, South and West during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Arenson (history, U. of Texas, El Paso) traces the city's development as it sought to position itself as a cultural and economic center and arbiter of the emerging post-war American identity and its ultimate failure to frame the debate in its favor. Drawing on a wealth of archival documents and other primary sources, the work demonstrates, by focusing on local and less well known events, that re-centering historical perspectives can shed interesting new light on events most often cast in a more traditional national or factional discourse. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
2010-2011 Charles Redd Center Book Award, Phi Alpha Theta and Charles Redd Center for Western Studies at Brigham Young University
About the Author
Adam Arenson is Assistant Professor of History, University of Texas at El Paso.
University of Texas at El Paso
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History and Social Science » Military » Civil War » General