Archive for June 9th, 2014

Waking Giant


I wanted to read this book to get to know more of a period in American history that I know so little about. This book covers the period of 1815 through 1848. My curiosity of that era was sparked after reading a biography of the president Andrew Jackson. No doubt reading this book gave me more of a context in understanding Andrew and his times. The focus of this book is an exploration of how this moment in American history was an unprecedented time in American history of growth and the shaping of the American identity. Surely this era was an exciting and also tumultuous time. It is growing pains if you will. I appreciated that the book went beyond the discussion of political history of the presidencies and their political parties (which I do enjoy). I love the author’s exploration of social and cultural themes of the times. For instance, the author talks about the sectional divide of the country, and various social movements such as those trying to achieve an utopia at that time, Trancendentalism and the Temperance movement. My favorite portion of the book covered the religious tempo of that time—and the introduction of American born religious movements such as the Quakers, Mormons, Christ of Christ and Shakers, it is phenomenal to see how “religious” the American people are then—and even now. The author also had discussion of other religious groups that were existent elsewhere that also reached the shores of America—Catholics with their adjustment to the US in light of native suspicions of them, Lutherans and their identity crises of their German roots and Calvinists/Presbyterians waning influence with those who reacted strongly against them that led to new movements. There are echoes here of The Democratization of American Christianity by Nathan O. Hatch. The book also discusses the uglier side of American history at that time with the nation’s policy towards Native Americans, immigrants and other states in North and South America. I was surprised to learn how costly the Mexican American war was in terms of casualties and financially. Today we often think of this period as the eve of the Civil War—and the author also discussed the issues of slavery. An enjoyable read though it felt at times it was a long read.

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