Monday, October 03, 2016

Short History of Reconstruction by Eric Foner

I have read other books by Eric Foner and have yet to find one that I didn't learn a great deal from. One of the things I learned from this one, which is a condensed version of a much larger work, is that the racial politics of the United States shows an amazing amount of continuity. Other works I have recently read have shown the discourse of immigration and religious identity now seen in the United States then was also present in the 1840s and 50s. Thinking about the 1860s and 70s shows a similar similarity between now and then. It just feels so familiar.
Years ago when I first started teaching 20th century European history and world history I came to the conclusion that for a great many people World War I did not end in 1918 – large parts of the world were still at war or at least in a chaotic condition until about 1922. I wonder if it makes sense to separate the Civil War from Reconstruction using the usual date of 1865 as a dividing line. The amount of violence that took place in various parts of the South is quite astonishing. The majority of conflicts were in fact initiated by Southern whites, and there are very few violent incidents where white casualties outnumbered black casualties.

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