Union: The Struggle To Forge the Story of United States Nationhood

Viking. Jun. 2020. 432p. ISBN 9780525560159. $30. HIST
The theme of Woodard’s (American Nations; American Character) writing is that in order for one to understand the national history of the United States, one must account for the regional differences in the country as well as the way those regions have related to each other and the nation as a whole. Woodward picks up this theme in this latest work by tracing the lives and careers of five Americans: William Simms, George Bancroft, Frederick Douglass, Woodrow Wilson, and Frederick Turner. Each of his subjects was an historian, and the book describes how American history came to be understood and written. Woodard explains how the promises of the United States, freedom and equality, have been reserved primarily for white men throughout most of our history. The book tells the sad story of how Northern military victory in the Civil War turned into Southern cultural victory when Reconstruction was abandoned, culminating in the election of the unabashed racist, Woodrow Wilson. Overall, Woodward effectively shows how the country struggled to create a national myth, and an international image of unity.
VERDICT Woodard is a gifted historiographer, and this excellent work will be appreciated by anyone interested in American history and how it came to be written.
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