Sunday, May 5, 2013

Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863 - 1877

I finished Eric Foner's Reconstruction last night (except for the ten page epilogue which I finished about an hour ago).  This took me forever to read.  I believe I started it last November; might have even been October.  At one point I even put it back on the shelf, figuring I'd start it from the start again sometime when I could devote more time to it, as I was in Spanish class at the time and reading one or two other things which were more riveting.  But it only stayed up on the shelf for a couple days.  I missed it.  So I pulled it back down and read a good sized chunk of it, thirty or forty pages.  And kept plugging away.

The book tells in great detail how Reconstruction became the official policy of the post-Civil War national government, how it was implemented, who was for it, who was against it, how the various political battles were contested, and, ultimately how it 'failed.'   Reading Foner's summary of what caused its ultimate failure reminded me a great deal of Robert S. McNamara's list in In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam.  In a nutshell, the other side was more determined and more united and more willing to fight on than the 'good guys' were.  In the movies, 'Good' always triumphs over 'Evil.'  In real life it's a bit more complicated.


  1. Good v evil is a toss up at best, "The battleline between good and evil runs through the heart of every man." Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    Why did it take you so long to read, only due to Spanish class, or is the book a bit like a text book? I can and do shlog through some books filled with detail sometimes to try to get the punchline out of it. Right now reading a history of the War of the Roses, a well done book, but the number of characters dates places is hugh and makes me a bit dozy sometimes.
    Well if I see your book around I will try it.

    1. It took so long because it is very 'dry.' I've read text books that were more inspiring. This one was very good though, just hard to get enthused about. It is considered by many to be the gold standard on the subject, though, so I was determined to finish. I figured it would make a good follow up to James McPherson's 'The Civil War,' which I would recommend for you to read before the Foner book, if you haven't already. That one was very detailed but much more readable. Is also considered by many to be the best on its subject.