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New Spirits: Americans
in the Gilded Age, 1865-1905

by Rebecca Edwards, Oxford University Press


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Quick—can you name three things that happened in the U.S. between the end of the Civil War and the rise of Teddy Roosevelt? If you can come up with anything, chances are it's something depressing like the collapse of Reconstruction, a political scandal, or a messy strike. Many historians have argued that late-nineteenth-century America was mired in paralysis and stagnation. In fact it was an era of violence and conflict but also of hope and energy—the exact opposite of stagnant, and an extremely critical era in the forging of modern America.

“Again and again, I was jolted by the contemporary relevance of what I saw. The first national parks appeared. People began to use familiar words like “dieting’ and ‘dating’ and ‘homosexual.’ You can’t read about Andrew Carnegie’s government contracts without thinking ‘Halliburton.’ And when you find US troops fighting guerrillas in the Philippines, engaging in acts of torture and abuse of prisoners, it really brings home how much we, today, are heirs to this overlooked era in our past.” — author Rebecca Edwards

New Spirits offers a fresh, sweeping narrative of these “lost decades,” showing how key aspects of today's America emerged in these years:

  • A multicultural society, including immigrants from Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe as well as citizenship for African-Americans
  • A modern political order, with an active federal government and an array of national reform movements
  • Giant multinational corporations and the roots of today's military-industrial complex
  • Global communications, wire news services, and media conglomerates offering Sunday comics and pro sports coverage
  • An exuberant consumer culture
  • A nationwide debate over the relationship between religion and science

New Spirits: Americans in the Gilded Age, 1865-1905
by Rebecca Edwards, Oxford University Press.
Table of Contents
(Read the) INTRODUCTION: Democratic Vistas

PART I: THE WEDGE (pp. 9-104)
1. An Uneasy Peace
2. Reach
3. Work
4. Money

PART II: THE EXCHANGE (pp. 105-196)
5. Youth
6. Sex
7. Science
8. Faith

PART III. THE FIRES (pp. 197-276)
9. A State of War
10. Cooperative Dreams
11. Executive Powers

EPILOGUE: The Partridges and the Hippopotamus

New Spirits: Americans in the Gilded Age, 1865-1905
by Rebecca Edwards: Book Reviews and Links

Other Books by Rebecca Edwards

  • Angels in the Machinery: Gender in American Party Politics from the Civil War to the Progressive Era
    "[An] extraordinary achievement....In clear and concise prose, Edwards has transformed the historiographical landscape of nineteenth-century American politics."--Reviews in American History
    "A stunning entry in the historical scholarship currently revisioning the politics of the Gilded Age from a gendered perspective....Worthy of serious attention by specialists in both political history and women's history."--Journal of American History
    "Important because of its implications for women's studies, politics, and numerous reform movements (including women's suffrage)."--Choice

    Angels in the Machinery (Oxford University Press, 1997) offers a sweeping analysis of the centrality of gender to politics in the United States from the days of the Whigs to the early twentieth century. Author Rebecca Edwards shows that women in the U.S. participated actively and influentially as Republicans, Democrats, and leaders of third-party movements like Prohibitionism and Populism--decades before they won the right to vote--and in the process managed to transform forever the ideology of American party politics. Using cartoons, speeches, party platforms, news accounts, and campaign memorabilia, she offers a compelling explanation of why family values, women's political activities, and even candidates' sex lives remain hot-button issues in politics to this day.

  • © 2010 Rebecca Edwards, author of New Spirits: Americans in the Gilded Age, 1865-1905 by Rebecca Edwards, Oxford University Press

Order New Spirits Online

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New Spirits


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