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Publisher's Summary

The years from 1815 to 1848 were arguably the richest period in American life. In Waking Giant, award-winning historian David S. Reynolds illuminates the era's exciting political story alongside the fascinating social and cultural movements that influenced it. He casts fresh light on Andrew Jackson, who redefined the presidency, as well as John Quincy Adams and James K. Polk, who expanded the nation's territory and strengthened its position internationally. Waking Giant captures the turbulence of a democracy caught in the throes of the slavery controversy, the rise of capitalism, and the birth of urbanization. Reynolds reveals unknown dimensions of the Second Great Awakening with its sects, cults, and self-styled prophets. He brings alive the reformers, abolitionists, and prohibitionists who struggled to correct America's worst social ills. He uncovers the political roots of some of America's greatest authors and artists, from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Edgar Allan Poe to Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand, and he re-creates the shocking phenomena that marked the age: bloody duels and violent mobs; Barnum's freaks and all-seeing mesmerists; polygamous prophets and wealthy prostitutes; table-lifting spiritualists and rabble-rousing feminists. All were crucial to the political and social ferment that led to the Civil War. Meticulously researched and masterfully written, Waking Giant is a brilliant chronicle of America's vibrant and tumultuous rise.
©2008 David S. Reynolds (P)2008 Tantor
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Critic Reviews

"A remarkable synthesis, impressive on many levels." ( Kirkus Starred Review)
"His book will appeal to general history buffs and American studies students. Highly recommended for all public and college libraries." ( Library Journal)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Tad Davis on 12-09-08

Lucid narration

I knew almost nothing about the Jacksonian era in American history before listening to this. Reynolds is mostly positive about Jackson's influence on democratic politics (small "d") while deploring his attitudes toward slavery and his "ethnic cleansing" of Native Americans. The political campaigns are all here, but even more than that, Reynolds gives a fascinating overview of cultural trends: the new religions, the new novelists and poets and philosophers (Hawthorne, Emerson, Melville), and the painters; and the new technology (telegraph, railroad, the Erie Canal). There is more than a dash of "spice" here as well, with discussions of hucksters, showmen, alcohol consumption, and sexual practices.

As a novice in the period, I don't have any opinion about how complete Reynolds' account is. What I CAN say is that it's very well written, competently narrated, and absorbing throughout. I'm looking forward to the audiobook version of "What Hath God Wrought" (due out next year), which covers the same period and which friends of mine have highly recommended. It will be interesting to compare the two.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Howard on 01-27-09

Waking Giant - US History

Of the many excellent historical books now available on Audible, this is one of the best. Reynolds provides a panoramic view of life in the first half of the 19th century. His account weaves together the politics, mores, religious ferment, medical and cultural aspects of life in this era. The medical details were of particular interest to this 88 year old listener. During the 20s my mother used the practice of "blistering" - mustard plasters - for chest colds and anything else. Calomel - a poisonous mercury purgative was still employed. Medicine really didn't change much until the first real antibiotic, sulfanilamide, was developed in the 1940s. A fascinating and meticulously researched book.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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