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The Rise and Fall of the Second American Republic : Reconstruction, 1860-1920 - Manisha Sinha

The Rise and Fall of the Second American Republic

Reconstruction, 1860-1920

By: Manisha Sinha

Hardcover | 23 May 2024 | Edition Number 1

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We are told that the present moment bears a strong resemblance to Reconstruction, the era after the Civil War when the victorious North attempted to create an interracial democracy in the unrepentant South. That effort failed--and that failure serves as a warning today about violent backlash to the mere idea of black equality.

In The Rise and Fall of the Second American Republic, acclaimed historian Manisha Sinha expands our view beyond the accepted temporal and spatial bounds of Reconstruction, which is customarily said to have begun in 1865 with the end of the war, and to have come to a close when the "corrupt bargain" of 1877 put Rutherford B. Hayes in the White House in exchange for the fall of the last southern Reconstruction state governments. Sinha's startlingly original account opens in 1860 with the election of Abraham Lincoln that triggered the secession of the Deep South states, and take us all the way to 1920 and the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted women the right to vote--and which Sinha calls the "last Reconstruction amendment."

Within this grand frame, Sinha narrates the rise and fall of what she calls the "Second American Republic." The Reconstruction of the South, a process driven by the alliance between the formerly enslaved at the grassroots and Radical Republicans in Congress, is central to her story, but only part of it. As she demonstrates, the US Army's conquest of Indigenous nations in the West, labor conflict in the North, Chinese exclusion, women's suffrage, and the establishment of an overseas American empire were all part of the same struggle between the forces of democracy and those of reaction. The main concern of Reconstruction was the plight of the formerly enslaved, but its fall affected other groups as well: women, workers, immigrants, and Native Americans. From the election of black legislators across the South in the late 1860s to the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 to the colonial war in the Philippines in the 1890s, Sinha narrates the major episodes of the era and introduces us to key individuals, famous and otherwise, who helped remake American democracy, or whose actions spelled its doom.

A sweeping narrative that remakes our understanding of perhaps the most consequential period in American history, The Rise and Fall of the Second American Republic shows how the great contest of that age is also the great contest of our age--and serves as a necessary reminder of how young and fragile our democracy truly is.

Industry Reviews
[Sinha's] shrewdly argued study ties together many loose ends while providing propulsively narrated accounts of on-the-ground political violence and activism. It's an all-encompassing new perspective on American history.
--Publishers Weekly, starred review
[R]igorously researched and brilliantly argued . . . Sinha challenges multiple myths about Reconstruction, beginning with the big white lie that it constituted a despotic imposition of federal power . . . The Rise and Fall of the Second American Republic does much to set the record straight.
--Steve Nathans-Kelly "New York Journal of Books"
With this remarkable book Manisha Sinha dramatically expands our understanding of Reconstruction, which she calls the Second American Republic. It encompassed the entire nation, not simply the former Confederate states. It ended not in 1877 but in the 1890s. Reconstruction didn't fail; it was overthrown. It was a major part of women's history, reaching its culmination with the achievement of women's suffrage, the last of the Reconstruction amendments, Sinha writes. Thanks to The Rise and Fall of the Second American Republic, Reconstruction will never look the same as it once did.--James Oakes, author of The Crooked Path to Abolition: Abraham Lincoln and the Antislavery Constitution
A big and bold book. Manisha Sinha's The Rise and Fall of the Second American Republic is marked by deep learning, expansive thinking, and compelling arguments. Readers will find it illuminating, challenging, and thought-provoking.--Steven Hahn, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of Illiberal America
Studded with significant events, compelling stories, and little-known historical actors, The Rise and Fall of the Second American Republic is a sweepingly grand political history that traces the multiracial quest for 'abolition democracy' while expanding our understanding of the stakes and afterlives of the Reconstruction era.--Tiya Miles, winner of the National Book Award for All That She Carried

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