What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848

In This Review

What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848

By Daniel Walker Howe
Oxford University Press, 2007
928 pp. $35.00
Purchase

This extraordinary contribution to the Oxford History of the United States series is a great accomplishment by one of the United States' most distinguished historians. In a book that every student of American history and politics should read, Howe synthesizes a broad range of historical scholarship to produce an overview of this crucial era that is lucid, sensible, entertaining, and revealing. It is, in short, everything a work of historical scholarship should be. In some ways, What Hath God Wrought reflects some fairly standard trends in contemporary scholarship: Andrew Jackson and the Democratic Party he led have been falling from the pedestal on which the late, lamented Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., placed them for some time, as historians reconsider the racial, military, and political values of white populism in that era. John Quincy Adams and the Whigs do better. Beyond this, however, Howe provides a fresh and generally fair view of the United States between the War of 1812 and the defeat of Mexico, and although some readers may be daunted by the book's heft, Howe's able and agile prose drives the narrative along at a brisk pace.