What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848

What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 - Daniel Walker Howe I did not realize how interesting or nuanced American history was during this period of time. The author tells the history while never boring, but at times the players got more complex than any science book because the categories don't always neatly fit into today's way of thinking about things. There just too many good stories to be told and he tells them. The author gives the political top down story, but never forgetting the bottom up approach and looking at the individuals who make up the whole.

The country was not a monolithic beast able to only hold one thought in its mind at a time. Even when we did wrong (slavery, Native American removal and extermination, women discrimination, wars of expansion, and so on), there were large undercurrents who spoke up against it.

The real dichotomy throughout the book is the value of the individual as weighed against the good of the society as a whole. The characters and the stories being told never ceased to awe the listener. The author also really gave large sections on the history of religion at the time and why it was so important for the development of the country at that time. The Millennialism Movement was widely believed and contributed to the belief of American Exceptionalism and even helps pave the way for Abraham Lincoln. My only regret with the book, is he didn't take me all the way up to 1860.

I would definitely recommend this book. The more we understand where we came from the more we can understand where we are going. There is a reason why some politicians want to end Advanced Placement History from high schools and not let students read books like this one. History does not always tell our story such that we are always exceptional, always in the right, or that we have a manifest destiny. History is much more nuanced (and interesting) than cable news, talk radio or some blogs would have you believe.