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THE RISE OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY: JEFFERSON TO LINCOLN

From the publisher’s description:

Acclaimed as the definitive study of the period by one of the greatest American historians, The Rise of American Democracy traces a historical arc from the earliest days of the republic to the opening shots of the Civil War. Ferocious clashes among the Founders over the role of ordinary citizens in a government of “we, the people” were eventually resolved in the triumph of Andrew Jackson. Thereafter, Sean Wilentz shows, a fateful division arose between two starkly opposed democracies—a division contained until the election of Abraham Lincoln sparked its bloody resolution.

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Winner of the Bancroft Prize

Pulitzer Prize Finalist

Winner of the Annual Best Book Award, Society of Historians of the Early Republic

Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist

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“Monumental…a tour de force…awesome in its coverage of political events.” –Gordon Wood, New York Times Book Review

“A magisterial synthesis that deserves the attention of anyone interested in the American past..” –Eric Foner, The Nation

“Remarkable . . . a book that befits its subject in artistry as well as scale.” –Steven Hahn, Chicago Tribune

“Confirms Sean Wilentz as the Richard Hofstadter of our day—the supreme political historian.” –Franklin Foer, New York Magazine

“Wilentz’s engaging narrative style and impressive detailing of the topic give a strong sense of immediacy to the account.” –Booklist

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THE AGE OF REAGAN: A HISTORY, 1974-2008

From the publisher’s description:

The past forty years have marked an era of conservatism. Although briefly interrupted in the late 1970s and temporarily reversed in the 1990s, a powerful surge from the right dominated American politics and government from 1974 to 2008. The Age of Reagan, accounts for how a conservative movement once deemed marginal managed to seize power and hold it, and describes the momentous consequences that followed. Vivid, authoritative, and illuminating from start to finish, The Age of Reagan is a groundbreaking chronicle of America’s political history since the fall of Nixon.

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Best Books of 2008:

The San Francisco Chronicle

The Providence Journal

Bloomberg News

The Daily Beast

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“Engrossing, provocative, and destined to be influential.” –David Greenberg, Los Angeles Times

“A smart and accessible overview of the long shadow cast by our 40th president…. What makes ‘The Age of Reagan’ so appealing is Wilentz’s skill at juggling the back pages of American history and the au courant.” –Douglas Brinkley, New York Times Book Review

“Distinguished Princeton historian Wilentz … makes an eloquent and compelling case for America’s Right as the defining factor shaping the country’s political history over the past 35 years.” –Publishers Weekly,starred review

“In his excellent The Age of Reagan, Sean Wilentz certainly takes his subject seriously.  Above all, Wilentz grasps the relevance of Reagan’s past as a hopeful New Dealer to his success as a conservative politician.” –E. J. Dionne, The American Prospect

“Sweeping…. Wilentz deserves kudos for biting of a challenge that few historians would have dared to undertake.” –Kevin Phillips, The Washington Post Book World

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THE ROSE & THE BRIAR: DEATH, LOVE AND LIBERTY IN THE AMERICAN BALLAD

From the publisher’s description:

Praised by Robbie Robertson of The Band as “a classic & a ticket to ride,” The Rose & the Briar assembles an astonishing group of writers and artists: Paul Muldoon, Stanley Crouch, R. Crumb, Jon Langford of the Mekons, Sharyn McCrumb, Luc Sante, Joyce Carol Oates, Dave Marsh, and more than a dozen other novelists, essayists, performers, and critics; to explore the ineffable power of the American ballad. From “Barbara Allen” through “The Wreck of the Old 97″ to contemporary ballads by Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, The Rose & the Briar is, as Geoffrey O’Brien hailed in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, “a book full of internal echoes and provocative coincidences,” featuring “historical investigation, shamanistic trance-journey, memoir, novella and cartoon,” where “names and costumes change, soldiers become cowboys, demon lovers become backwoods murderer; the voices are unmistakably distinct but they share a common ground.”

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“Arguing that the American ballad is “a major form—musically, perhaps, the major form—through which Americans told each other about themselves and the country they inhabited,” Wilentz and Marcus offer this impressive, innovative tribute to it.” –Publishers Weekly

“Rich and thrilling.” –Bobbie Ann Mason

“Great stuff about music and America.” –Randy Newman

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ANDREW JACKSON

From the publisher’s description:

The Founding Fathers envisioned a republican government, but they were distrustful of the common people, having designed a constitutional system that would temper popular passions. Yet as the revolutionary generation passed from the scene in the 1820s, a new movement, based on the principle of broader democracy, gathered force and united behind Andrew Jackson, the charismatic general who had defeated the British at New Orleans and who embodied the hopes of ordinary Americans. Raising his voice against the artificial inequalities fostered by birth, station, monied power, and political privilege, Jackson brought American politics into a new age.

Andrew Jackson recounts the fiery career of this larger-than-life figure, a man whose high ideals were matched in equal measure by his failures and moral blind spots, a man who is remembered for the accomplishments of his eight years in office and for the bitter enemies he made. It was in Jackson’s time that the great conflicts of American politics—urban versus rural, federal versus state, free versus slave—crystallized, and Jackson was not shy about taking a vigorous stand. It was under Jackson that modern American politics began, and his legacy continues to inform our debates to the present day.

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“It is rare that historians manage both Wilentz’s deep interpretation and lively narrative.”–Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Let[s] Jackson speak for himself, rather than trying to present him as a figure who fits into the conventional left-right distinctions of a republic very different from the one he knew. What emerges is an irascible, touchy man, utterly confident in his own righteousness and equally devoted to honor, democracy, and union.”  –Walter Russell Mead, Foreign Affairs
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THE KINGDOM OF MATTHIAS

with Paul E. Johnson

From the publisher’s description:

In the autumn of 1834, New York City was awash with rumors of a strange religious cult operating nearby, centered on a mysterious, self-styled prophet named Matthias. It was said that Matthias the Prophet was stealing money from one of his followers; then came reports of lascivious sexual relations, based on odd teachings of matched spirits, apostolic priesthoods, and the inferiority of women. At its climax, the rumors transformed into legal charges, as the Prophet was arrested for the murder of a once highly-regarded Christian gentleman who had fallen under his sway. By the time the story played out, it became one of the nation’s first penny-press sensations, casting a peculiar but revealing light on the sexual and spiritual tensions of the day.

In The Kingdom of Matthias, the distinguished historians Paul Johnson and Sean Wilentz brilliantly recapture this forgotten story, imbuing their richly researched account with the dramatic force of a novel. In this book, the strange tale of Matthias the Prophet provides a fascinating window into the turbulent movements of the religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening–movements which swept up great numbers of evangelical Americans and gave rise to new sects like the Mormon. Into this teeming environment walked a down-and-out carpenter named Robert Matthews, who announced himself as Matthias, prophet of the God of the Jews. His hypnotic spell drew in a cast of unforgettable characters….By the time the tensions within the kingdom exploded into a clash with the law, Matthias had become a national scandal.

In the hands of Johnson and Wilentz, the strange tale of the Prophet and his kingdom comes vividly to life, recalling scenes from recent cult experiences… [and] showing the connections among rapid economic change, sex and race relations, politics, popular culture, and the rich varieties of American religious experience.

“Combining rare narrative skills and historical detail, Johnson and Wilentz recreate the fascinating tale of a false prophet and his misguided followers in New York in the 1820s and ’30s.” –Kirkus Reviews

“Paul E, Johnson and Sean Wilentz have recovered one of the great, weird instances of the spiritual volatility of our country…. They are rational men tracking the power of the irrational; which is to say, they are fine historians.  They have written a delicious and disturbing book.” — Leon Wieseltier

“The story is well told here by two marvelously inquisitive historians who possess the sure hand of a gifted novelist. An excellent book in every way and a warning to the latest ‘Messiah’ – the prophet Matthias ended in the dust” –Alfred Kazin

“…A history book that reads like a novel of suspense and intrique…it affords us a rare glimpse into a much-misunderstood time.” –WORLD

“The Kingdom of Matthias is as exciting as a novel: it has sex, a weird religious cult, a murder mystery, and an ending that is truly a surprise.  It is also a serious work of historical scholarship – in short, a wonderful book that will keep you up all night.” –Katha Pollitt

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CHANTS DEMOCRATIC: NEW YORK CITY & THE RISE OF THE AMERICAN WORKING CLASS, 1788-1850

20th Anniversary Edition, with a new preface by the author

From the publisher’s description:

Since its publication in 1984, Chants Democratic has endured as a classic account of labor and the rise of American democracy. In this, his first book, Sean Wilentz explores the dramatic social and intellectual changes that accompanied early industrialization in New York. He provides a panoramic chronicle of New York City’s labor strife, social movements, and political turmoil in the eras of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson. Twenty years after its initial publication, Wilentz added a new preface that takes stock of his own thinking, then and now, about New York City and the rise of the American working class.

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Winner of the Albert J. Beveridge Award

Winner of the Frederick Jackson Turner Award

Winner of the Annual Best Book Award, Society of the Historians of the Early Republic

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“The best book yet written about the emergence of New York City’s working class and a major contribution to American working-class history.”  –Herbert Gutman, The New Republic

“[Chants Democratic] has no equal in breadth of subject, grace of style or acuity of interpretation.” –The Nation

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