“Reconstruction: A Concise History” (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018). $18.95 hardcover, www.oup.com.
For decades Eric Foner’s “Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution” stood as the standard work on Reconstruction, that tumultuous moment in the Civil War’s aftermath where the nation reunited and African Americans attempted to realize the full promise of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. While various authors have written about Reconstruction since the release of Foner’s volume thirty years ago, arguably none have produced such a concise and thoughtful volume as Allen Guelzo’s latest tome.
Guelzo’s study, part of Oxford University Press’ “Concise History” series, provides a sweeping history of Reconstruction from the war’s end to the moment when President Rutherford B. Hayes withdrew remaining federal troops from various areas of the former Confederacy in 1877. Although Guelzo notes the various ways Reconstruction failed, he highlights some ways in which the spirit of Reconstruction persisted, including “Post-Reconstruction presidents” who “continued to appoint attorneys general who prosecuted voting-rights violations.”
For those unfamiliar with Reconstruction’s complexities, or for individuals seeking a refresher on one of the most neglected periods in our nation’s history, Guelzo’s book is essential.