Friday, November 20, 2009
Homestead Reading: List Two
Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: the Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War by Eric Foner
"Since its publication twenty-five years ago, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men has been recognized as a classic, an indispensable contribution to our understanding of the causes of the American Civil War. A key work in establishing political ideology as a major concern of modern American historians, it remains the only full-scale evaluation of the ideas of the early Republican party. Now with a new introduction, Eric Foner puts his argument into the context of contemporary scholarship, reassessing the concept of free labor in the light of the last twenty-five years of writing on such issues as work, gender, economic change, and political thought."
"A significant reevaluation of the causes of the Civil War, Foner's study looks beyond the North's opposition to slavery and its emphasis upon preserving the Union to determine the broader grounds of its willingness to undertake a war against the South in 1861. Its search is for those social concepts the North accepted as vital to its way of life, finding these concepts most clearly expressed in the ideology of the growing Republican party in the decade before the war's start. Through a careful analysis of the attitudes of leading factions in the party's formation (northern Whigs, former Democrats, and political abolitionists) Foner is able to show what each contributed to Republican ideology. He also shows how northern ideas of human rights--in particular a man's right to work where and how he wanted, and to accumulate property in his own name--and the goals of American society were implicit in that ideology. This was the ideology that permeated the North in the period directly before the Civil War, led to the election of Abraham Lincoln, and led, almost immediately, to the Civil War itself. At the heart of the controversy over the extension of slavery, he argues, is the issue of whether the northern or southern form of society would take root in the West, whose development would determine determine the nation's destiny." (Amazon product description) Published in 1995 by Oxford University Press
“A realistic biography, a rare find. On putting down this book one feels that one has read the history of all pioneering.” – New York Times Book Review (from back cover)
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West
By Dee Brown
By Elliott West
"Historians have paid little attention to the lives and contributions of children who took part in westward expansion. In this major study of American childhood, now available again in paperback, Elliott West explores how children helped shape--and in turn were shaped by--the frontier experience. Frontier children's first vivid perceptions of the new country, when deepened by their work, play, and exploration, forged a stronger bond with their surroundings than that of their elders. Through diaries, journals, letters, novels, and oral and written reminiscences, West has reconstructed the lives of the children who grew to become the first truly Western generation." (from the publisher) Published in 1989 by University of New Mexico Press.
By Jonathan Raban
Rachel Calof’s Story
By Rachel Calof
"In 1894, the 18-year-old Calof, a Russian Jew, was shipped to the U.S. to marry an unknown man and stake a homesteading claim with him in North Dakota. She later set down her memories of that time in fluid prose that occasionally reveals a biting sense of humor. Although her circumstances were often pathetic, Calof never is. She writes matter-of-factly about her 12'x 14' dirt-floored shanty, her husband's unappealing family and their unsanitary living arrangements. Each winter, her husband Abe's parents and brother would join them in their home in order to save fuel-an arrangement revealed only on her wedding day. There are pleasurable moments here too, like an impromptu supper of wild garlic and mushrooms (Calof does a taste test to see whether they are poisonous-"It didn't burn or taste bad, so I swallowed it"). Childbearing is particularly difficult: Calof seems to be constantly pregnant, and her superstitious mother-in-law keeps her secluded after the birth of her first child until she begins to hallucinate about demons. An epilogue by Calof's son, Jacob, picks up the courageous author's story in St. Paul, Minn., in 1917, while an essay by J. Sanford Rikoon on the phenomenon of Jewish farm settlements provides fascinating background." (from Publishers Weekly) Published in 1995 by Indiana University Press.