Faculty Bookshelf

The Rise and Fall of the Second American Republic

Manisha Sinha, Author

Norton, 2024


We are told that the present moment bears a strong resemblance to Reconstruction, the era after the Civil War when the victorious North attempted to create an interracial democracy in the unrepentant South. That effort failed—and that failure serves as a warning today about violent backlash to the mere idea of black equality.

In The Rise and Fall of the Second American Republic, acclaimed historian Manisha Sinha expands our view beyond the accepted temporal and spatial bounds of Reconstruction, which is customarily said to have begun in 1865 with the end of the war, and to have come to a close when the "corrupt bargain" of 1877 put Rutherford B. Hayes in the White House in exchange for the fall of the last southern Reconstruction state governments. Sinha’s startlingly original account opens in 1860 with the election of Abraham Lincoln that triggered the secession of the Deep South states, and take us all the way to 1920 and the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted women the right to vote—and which Sinha calls the "last Reconstruction amendment."

Within this grand frame, Sinha narrates the rise and fall of what she calls the "Second American Republic." The Reconstruction of the South, a process driven by the alliance between the formerly enslaved at the grassroots and Radical Republicans in Congress, is central to her story, but only part of it. As she demonstrates, the US Army’s conquest of Indigenous nations in the West, labor conflict in the North, Chinese exclusion, women’s suffrage, and the establishment of an overseas American empire were all part of the same struggle between the forces of democracy and those of reaction. The main concern of Reconstruction was the plight of the formerly enslaved, but its fall affected other groups as well: women, workers, immigrants, and Native Americans. From the election of black legislators across the South in the late 1860s to the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 to the colonial war in the Philippines in the 1890s, Sinha narrates the major episodes of the era and introduces us to key individuals, famous and otherwise, who helped remake American democracy, or whose actions spelled its doom.

A sweeping narrative that remakes our understanding of perhaps the most consequential period in American history, The Rise and Fall of the Second American Republic shows how the great contest of that age is also the great contest of our age—and serves as a necessary reminder of how young and fragile our democracy truly is.

The Rise and Fall of the Second American Republic book cover

America’s Black Capital: How African Americans Remade Atlanta in the Shadow of the Confederacy

Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar, Author

Basic, 2023


Atlanta is home to some of America’s most prominent Black politicians, artists, businesses, and HBCUs. Yet, in 1861, Atlanta was a final contender to be the capital of the Confederacy. Sixty years later, long after the Civil War, it was the Ku Klux Klan’s sacred “Imperial City.”

America’s Black Capital chronicles how a center of Black excellence emerged amid virulent expressions of white nationalism, as African Americans pushed back against Confederate ideology to create an extraordinary locus of achievement. What drove them, historian Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar shows, was the belief that Black uplift would be best advanced by forging Black institutions. America’s Black Capital is an inspiring story of Black achievement against all odds, with effects that reached far beyond Georgia, shaping the nation’s popular culture, public policy, and politics.

America's Black Capital book cover

Dolore e furore: Una storia delle Brigatte rosse

Sergio Luzzatto, Author

Giulio Einaudi editore, 2023


La dolorosa storia degli «anni di piombo» attraverso il ritratto di una generazione furente.

Per raccontare l'Italia delle Brigate rosse, Sergio Luzzatto ha adottato un fil rouge biografico e, insieme, una prospettiva suggestivamente corale. Il filo rosso viene dalla vita, sanguinosa quanto breve, dell'ex marinaio Riccardo Dura: colui che, sparando al cuore dell'operaio comunista Guido Rossa, cambiò per sempre sia la storia delle Br, sia la storia d'Italia. E che, trucidato dalle forze dell'ordine, suo malgrado appose al terrorismo di sinistra l'ambiguo sigillo del martirio. La prospettiva corale viene dai volti e dalle voci di Genova, la città dove tutto inizia e dove tutto finisce. La storia della lotta armata va compresa guardando, piú che al singolo, ai molti. E guardando indietro, all'Italia degli anni Sessanta, altrettanto che all'Italia degli anni Settanta. L'immigrazione, la famiglia, la scuola, la fabbrica, i «movimenti», la piazza, l'università, il carcere: in questo libro, quello dei «compagni che sbagliano» è romanzo di formazione, prima di diventare romanzo criminale.

Sergio Luzzatto Dolore e furore book cover.

Moshe’s Children: The Orphans of the Holocaust and the Birth of Israel

Sergio Luzzatto, Author

Indiana University Press, 2023


Moshe's Children presents the inspiring story of Moshe Zeiri, a Jewish carpenter responsible for rescuing hundreds of Jewish refugee children who had survived the Final Solution. During the liberation of Italy, Zeiri, a volunteer in the British Army in Italy, assumed responsibility for and vowed to help around seven hundred Polish, Hungarian, Russian, and Romanian children. Although these orphans of the Shoah had been deprived of a family, a home, and a language and were irreparably robbed of their past, they were able to rebuild their lives through Zeiri's efforts as he founded the largest Jewish orphanage in postwar Europe in Selvino, Italy, where he began to rehabilitate the orphans and to teach them how to become citizens of the new nation of Israel.

Moshe's Children also explores Zeiri's own story from birth in a shtetl to his upbringing and Zionist education, his journey to the Land of Israel, and his work there before the war.

With narrative verve and scholarly acumen, Sergio Luzzatto brilliantly tells the gripping stories of these orphans of the Holocaust and the good man who helped point them to a real future.

Moshe's Children book cover

Jubilee’s Experiment: The British West Indies and American Abolitionism

Dexter J. Gabriel, Author

Cambridge University Press, 2023


Dexter J. Gabriel's Jubilee's Experiment is a thorough examination of how the emancipated British Caribbean colonies entered into the debates over abolition and African American citizenship in the US from the 1830s through the 1860s. It analyzes this public discourse, created by black and white abolitionists, and African Americans more generally in antebellum America, as both propaganda and rhetoric. Simultaneously, Gabriel interweaves the lived experiences of former slaves in the West Indies – their daily acts of resistance and struggles for greater freedoms – to further augment but complicate this debate. An important and timely intervention, Jubilee's Experiment argues that the measured success of former slaves in the West Indies became a crucial focal point in the struggle against slavery in antebellum North America.

Jubilee's Experiment book cover

Kennan: A Life between Worlds

Frank Costigliola, Author

Princeton University Press, 2023


The diplomat and historian George F. Kennan (1904–2005) ranks as one of the most important figures in American foreign policy—and one of its most complex. Drawing on many previously untapped sources, Frank Costigliola’s authoritative biography offers a new picture of a man of extraordinary ability and ambition whose idea of containing the Soviet Union helped ignite the Cold War but who spent the next half century trying to extinguish it. Always prescient, Kennan in the 1990s warned that the eastward expansion of NATO would spur a new cold war with Russia.

Even as Kennan championed rational realism in foreign policy, his personal and professional lives were marked by turmoil. And though he was widely respected and honored by presidents and the public, he judged his career a failure because he had been dropped as a pilot of U.S. foreign policy. Impossible to classify, Kennan was a sui generis thinker, a trenchant critic of both communism and capitalism, and a pioneering environmentalist. Living between Russia and the United States, he witnessed firsthand Stalin’s tightening grip on the Soviet Union, the collapse of Europe during World War II, and the nuclear arms race of the Cold War.

An absorbing portrait of an eloquent, insightful, and sometimes blinkered iconoclast whose ideas are still powerfully relevant, Kennan invites us to imagine a world that Kennan fought for but was unable to bring about—one not of confrontations and crises but of dialogue and diplomacy.

Kennan A Life Between Worlds book cover.

This Is My Jail: Local Politics & the Rise of Mass Incarceration

While state and federal prisons like Attica and Alcatraz occupy a central place in the national consciousness, most incarceration in the United States occurs within the walls of local jails. In This Is My Jail, Melanie D. Newport situates the late twentieth-century escalation of mass incarceration in a longer history of racialized, politically repressive jailing. Centering the political actions of people until now overlooked—jailed people, wardens, corrections officers, sheriffs, and the countless community members who battled over the functions and impact of jails—Newport shows how local, grassroots contestation shaped the rise of the carceral state.

As ground zero for struggles over criminal justice reform, particularly in the latter half of the twentieth century, jails in Chicago and Cook County were models for jailers and advocates across the nation who aimed to redefine jails as institutions of benevolent transformation. From a slave sale on the jail steps to new jail buildings to electronic monitoring, from therapy to job training, these efforts further criminalized jailed people and diminished their capacity to organize for their civil rights. With prisoners as famous as Al Capone, Dick Gregory, and Harold Washington, and a place in culture ranging from Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle to B. B. King’s Live in Cook County Jail, This Is My Jail places jails at the heart of twentieth-century urban life and politics.

As a sweeping history of urban incarceration, This Is My Jail shows that jails are critical sites of urban inequality that sustain the racist actions of the police and judges and exacerbate the harms wrought by housing discrimination, segregated schools, and inaccessible health care. Structured by liberal anti-Blackness and legacies of violence, today’s jails reflect longstanding local commitments to the unfreedom of poor people of color.

This Is My Jail book cover

Who Owned Waterloo? Battle, Memory, and Myth in British History, 1815-1852

Luke Reynolds, Author

Oxford University Press, 2022


This book represents the first complete history of the cultural afterlife of the Battle of Waterloo in British history. It:

  • Uses Waterloo to provide a picture of British popular culture and the shaping of British national identity in the first half of the nineteenth century.
  • Examines civil-military relations in this period, especially in reference to patronage and the arbitration of authenticity.
  • Provides a balanced view of nineteenth century British popular politics.
  • Winner of the Society for Military History 2023 Distinguished Book Award, First Book Category.

Who Owned Waterloo book cover