BOOK REVIEW: CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN HISTORY (1877-1913)

BOOK REVIEW: CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN HISTORY (1877-1913)

Introduction

The book “Contemporary American History (1877-1913)” by Charles A. Beard discusses a combination of various historical issues including class, gender, culture, race, politics, law, and labor. The primary objective of the author is to present historical events in the United States past the Civil War. Many scholars proclaim that many books do not focus on contemporary America but rather the major events such as the Cold and Civil war which consequently limits the literature or knowledge of the history of contemporary America. Charles A. Beard contributes to the literature by availing information of the events when the first president of the United States was inaugurated.  Scholars can utilize this historical book to learn facts about contemporary America. Charles A. Beard discusses various events that have happened in contemporary to provide information for scholars who have no access to scholarly materials discussing the history of America in the timeframe between 1877-1913.

Summary

The introductory section of the book delves on the issue of restoration white dominion in the south. In 1877, the 19th president of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes was inaugurated. The federal soldiers who had been in control during the Civil War restored the regions to the respective governors which meant that the nation was under the Republican rule. Dominant white groups including the Ku Klux Klan restored their operations and continued to promote white supremacy ideologies.  The African Americans in the nation continued to face the oppression of the majority groups although the United States Constitution had outlined clauses that promoted civil and human rights.  At around 1860s, the economic revolution of the nation had begun whereby the nation was relying on steam and machinery for manufacturing and production of the country’s products.

The United States had been attaining positive economic improvement since the 1950s when the nation’s population was around twenty-three million and a total of nine-hundred thousand wage earners. Around 1910, the population has surpassed ninety million with over six million wage earners.  The economy has been progressing due to various business ventures that employed the increasing population. However, the nation had been divided into segments which included the south, north, east, and west. Overall, the economy had been booming since the culmination of the Civil War. After the economic revolution, a revolution in politics and law followed. There was an upswing of capitalism after the end of the war. The north increased political power as most of the state officials in the federal government were from the north.

After the war, various constitutional amendments were made to the constitution including the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments. The supreme court resolved multiple cases as well which prompted the development of a judicial review.  Subsequently, the author discusses the issue of political parties such as the slave republican party. However, the popular parties remained the Republican and Democratic party. Since 1877, the nation also experienced a two-decade period of formulating federal legislation. Moreover, the book discusses the growth of dissent whereby people were dissatisfied with the policies formulated by Congress. The campaign of 1896 was revolutionary as it portrayed a class stratification and the difference in the demands of Democrats contradicted those of the Republicans. The Republicans won the 1896 election and focused on improving the economy of the nation. Lastly, the election of 1912 was influenced by the dissent of the Republican party.

Strengths and Weakness

One of the strengths of the book is that the author remains focused on the primary objective writing the book which is to provide a narration of the history of contemporary America. At the begging of the book, the author begins by presenting the events that took place in 1877 which is the inauguration of the 19th president of the United States, Hayes.  There exist a myriad of books that discuss the events of the Civil Wars while there is little literature of the events after the culmination of the war. As such, the author keenly focuses on the contemporary era to ensure that he focuses on realizing the objective of the book. Therefore, the author’s focus on a specific historical period without focusing on other events suffices to be a strength which means that the author understands the influence that the book will have on the readers.

The historical period past the Civil Wars is not appropriately documented as per the sentiments of many historical scholars. As a result, scholars do not find any information about contemporary American history.  The author devoted his writing to provide information about contemporary America and add on to the little literature. The book stands out from other historical writings that focus on major events in the United States. Charles A. Beard delves on presenting information that lacks to enhance the learners who would wish to learn facts about the historical events. The author focuses on a unique target audience. Therefore, the decision of the author to focus on a different historical timeline unlike other historians is a strength of the book.

Charles A. Beard utilizes a chronological approach to discussing the history of contemporary America. The author gives priority to events such as the culmination of the Civil War and the inauguration of President Hayes. Consequently, the author discusses the issues of race, class, labor, law, and gender which significantly contributed to the historical events in the United States.  Subsequently, the author discusses the economic development of the nation after the Civil and how business was booming after the war. The book also outlines subsequent events in the history of America such as the campaigns of 1896 and the politics of 1912.  Revolution of the politics, law, and upspring of capitalism is also analyzed in the book.  The ability of the author to present information chronologically as it happened suffices to be a strength of the historical book.

One of the weaknesses of the book is that the author omitted some of the historical events ton focus on important issues. The book does not include details of the San Francisco earthquake and Sioux war which according to the author are not important.  The omission of a part of historical information threatens the passage of knowledge because lack of particular information may make future scholars fail to understand that there were some natural calamities and war that ever existed in contemporary America to address the historical gaps that the book may have left. The omission of such information may require another historian to write about the particular incidents. Although the author provides the rationale for the exclusion of the information, the decision acts as a perceptible weakness of the historical book.

Tone and language influence how information appeals to readers. Formal language and tone may appeal to many readers while the informal language may cause dissent among readers. The author uses the word “negro,” an informal language that may not appeal to many readers. The word is termed to be racially discriminative against the African Americans. A reader may pay attention to specific details of the book and have a negative perception of the reader’s intention due to the language and the tone that the author uses in the book.  Instead of using the word negro which is racially discriminative, the author should have used a formal language such as the phrase “African American.” Therefore, the informal language in the book suffices to be a weakness that the author should address in the next volume or book.

Conclusion

The book presents information about the history of contemporary America from 1877-1913. The book is comprehensive and discusses issues including politics, gender, race, law, and economy among other issues. The author presents information chronologically to ensure that a reader understands how historical events took place. The book dwells mostly on the political history of the time and how events changed since 1877 until 1913. Although there are weaknesses of the book such as the omission of some historical information, the author provides the rationale behind his decision. The tone and language are not appealing as well because of the use of an informal word, “negro.” Conclusively, the strengths outdo the weaknesses of the book. As such, the book is recommendable for any scholar who wishes to understand the historical events of contemporary America.

 

Bibliography

Aull, Laura. “Connecting Writing and Language in Assessment: Examining Style, Tone, and Argument in the US Common Core standards and in Exemplary Student Writing.” Assessing Writing 24 (2015): 59-73.

Beard, Charles Austin. Contemporary American History, 1877-1913. Macmillan, 2010.

Faulkner, Harold Underwood. The Decline of Laissez Faire, 1897-1917. Routledge, 2017.

LaFeber, Walter, and Nancy Woloch. The American Century: A History of the United States Since the 1890s. Routledge, 2015.

Omi, Michael, and Howard Winant. Racial formation in the United States. Routledge, 2014.

 
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