Monday, February 19, 2007

Reconstruction: As seen from NYC

We've seen the world from the perspective of Manhattan, thanks to the New Yorker Magazine. Now David Quigley's book gives us Reconstruction, as seen from New York. But his reviewer finds much more.

David Quigley, Second Founding: New York City, Reconstruction, and the Making of American Democracy (Hill and Wang, 2004) is reviewed by Kirsten Twelbeck, Cultural Studies Department, John F. Kennedy-Institute for American Studies in Berlin, first on H-CivWar, and just posted on H-Net. Twelbeck begins:
David Quigley's Second Founding: New York City, Reconstruction, and the Making of American Democracy is an inspiring history of post-Civil War Manhattan. Focusing on debates about equality, freedom, and representation, Quigley links New York history with the nation at large and examines it as a seismograph for nationwide political developments, the effects of which can still be felt today. The historical meaning of the city as a contested space where cultures meet and classes clash predestine it to be a site for scholarly investigation of U.S. democracy. The book's national scope is ambitious yet immediately becomes plausible, given the fact that Reconstruction politics were lastingly influenced by New York politicians and activists, and the mass media. The author shifts from Philadelphia, symbolically America's central eighteenth-century city, to nineteenth-century Manhattan, which had become the nation's stage where the "rules of the democratic game" were negotiated in often dramatic ways (p. ix). By constructing such a historical vanishing point, one runs the risk of establishing a quasi-mythical perspective which neglects the city's dependency not only on the Washington legislature but also, for example, on developments in more remote areas of the Reconstruction South. However, Quigley avoids such an imbalance: Second Founding is a careful remapping of the city as both a microcosm of the nation and an early announcement of things to come. As part of a scholarly discourse that seeks to reconstruct the postwar era through local histories, it provides a starting point for work that seeks to link the local to the national and, as Quigley's next book evidently promises, to the international.

For the rest, click here.
Photo credit, click here.