Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson
New York: HarperCollins, 2008. Also available in paperback, e-book, and audiobook.
by David S. Reynolds
“An unmitigated delight.”
–Douglas Brinkley, Washington Post Book World
A chronicle of American politics, society, reform, and many facets of culture in the years between 1815 and 1848.
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR
A WASHINGTON POST BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
About the Book
America experienced unprecedented growth and turmoil in the years between 1815 and 1848. lt was an age when Andrew J. Jackson redefined the presidency and James K. Polk expanded the nation’s territory. David S. Reynolds captures the turbulence of a democracy caught in the throes of the controversy over slavery, the rise of capitalism, and the birth of urbanization. He brings to life the reformers, abolitionists, and temperance advocates who struggled to correct America’s worst social ills, and he reveals the shocking phenomena that marked the age: violent mobs, P. T. Barnum’s freaks, all-seeing mesmerists, polygamous prophets, and rabblerousing feminists. He places America’s major writers—Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Poe, Melville, and Hawthorne—as well as artists such as Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, and George Caleb Bingham against this zestful social and political background. Meticulously researched and masterfully written, Waking Giant is a brilliant chronicle of America’s vibrant and tumultuous rise.
Critical Praise for Waking Giant:
“Reynolds is a thoughtful historian and Waking Giant is as engaging and insightful a narrative of this critical interregnum as any written in years.” —Jay Winik, The New York Times Book Review
“Kaleidoscopic. . . . A happy mosaic of an era that may well be, just as the author suggests, the ‘richest’ in American history.” —James Grant, The Wall Street Journal
“A terrific introduction to a period in our history that was once ignored, a period increasingly recognized as a time when the foundations of much of modern America were laid.” —John Steele Gordon, The New York Times
“A lively account of the battles in which Jackson’s political and economic democracy ultimately prevailed over the old establishment represented by John Quincy Adams…. Reynolds devotes dose to half the text to an illuminating appreciation of the Jacksonian influence on literature and art, with shorter discussions on religion and popular fads.” —The Boston Globe
“As David Reynolds shows in his astute and concise history of the period, Waking Giant, the times defined Jackson as much as he de¬fined the times.”
“This Bancroft Prize winner weaves a richly suggestive picture of the period’s fascinating social and intellectual history;…The result: The whiplash changes and conflicts in the nation’s mores and morals come alive in a well-paced, entertaining narrative.” —American History Magazine
“Excellent. . . . Outstanding. .. . Expansive. . . . Jackson and his presidency figure large in Reynolds’s account. But he reserves equal space for the era’s great evangelical and reform movements, its fads and inventions, its growing partisan and regional divisions as the country drifted toward civil war, and its burgeoning sense of ‘mani¬fest destiny,’ as the nation expanded into the West, into Florida and Texas, into the Mexican and British northwest territories now part of the United States.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Waking Giant is a pioneering look at one of the most important unaddressed problems in American historiography—how society and culture influenced politics. Recent narratives of the Jacksonian period have focused on the era’s politics at the expense of the culture. In contrast, Waking Giant enthusiastically embraces the era’s ‘bump¬tious, nonconformist, roistering elements, its oddities and cultural innovations.’…Reynolds writes history as entertainingly as anyone out there, and Waking Giant is no exception.” —The Providence Journal
“An engaging new book. . . . Some of the best chapters of Waking Giant explore the influence of President Andrew Jackson, a rough-hewn man of the people who managed to lead despite his well-deserved reputation as a thin-skinned brawler who never met an insult he wouldn’t really like to kill someone over. . . .Waking Giant is at its most entertaining when Reynolds sifts through the nonpolitical world, tracking the rise of abolitionists, feminists, utopians, union leaders, and more than a few crackpots.” —The Christian Science Monitor
Media Appearances for Waking Giant:
Newspapers & Magazine Interviews