Richardson, Heather Cox 1962-
Richardson, Heather Cox 1962-
Born 1962. Education: Harvard University, Ph.D., 1992.
Home—Winchester, MA. Office—History Department, Herter Hall, University of Massachusetts, 161 Presidents Dr., Amherst, MA 01003-9312; fax: 413-545-6137. Agent—Garamond Agency, 12 Horton St., Newburyport, MA 01950. E-mail—[email protected]
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, instructor, 1993-2002; Harvard University, Cambridge, Charles Warren Center fellow, 1998-99; University of Massachusetts, Amherst, professor of history. Member of the national advisory board for the Tredegar National Civil War Center Foundation; consultant.
The Greatest Nation of the Earth: Republican Economic Policies during the Civil War, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1997.
The Death of Reconstruction: Race, Labor, and Politics in the Post-Civil War North, 1865-1901, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2001.
Contributor to works by others, including the introduction in The South since the War: As Shown by Fourteen Weeks of Travel and Observation in Georgia and the Carolinas (abridged version), Sidney Andrews, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 2004; and the chapter "North and West of Reconstruction" in Reconstructions: New Perspectives on thePostbellum United States, Thomas J. Brown, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2006. Book reviewer, including for the Chicago Tribune. Member of the editorial board of American Nineteenth Century History.
Heather Cox Richardson is a professor of history whose interests include the Civil War and Reconstruction. In addition to teaching courses on American nineteenth-century history, she is a consultant to firms that train secondary school teachers. Richardson also conducts seminars and reviews books for scholarly journals. She appeared in a Bill Moyers documentary entitled The Chinese in America.
Richardson is the author of several volumes, including The Greatest Nation of the Earth: Republican Economic Policies during the Civil War, in which she focuses not on military operations but on legislation enacted by the Republican Congress from 1861 to 1865. In the first chapter, she profiles the new Republicans who first convened on July 4, 1861, then in the next six chapters, writes of their actions by topic. These progressive Republicans raised money by issuing bonds and creating federal lands, developed a banking system and national currency, levied taxes and tariffs, passed homestead laws, initiated the first transcontinental railroad, and called for the end of slavery.
Their goal was to create an environment that would result in the success of American farmers, workers, and businesses. Richardson shows how with prosperity and industrial expansion came corruption and dissent, and as corporations became more powerful, small farmers and workers lost ground. The government took on the role of regulator of big business but failed to provide support to others who lost out to industrialization.
James A. Hodges reviewed The Greatest Nation of the Earth in the Historian, writing that Richardson "gives depth and understanding to sometimes difficult issues. For example, her explanation of the monetary legislation is a model of clarity. Even the most economically impaired person should understand how the national currency came about." History: Review of New Books contributor Robert Sawrey concluded his review by writing that Richardson "has ably filled a gap in the profession's knowledge of Republican ideology and actions. This is a fine book that not only makes clear what Republicans did during the Civil War and why but also why those same, successful programs later caused major problems for the nation."
In The Death of Reconstruction: Race, Labor, and Politics in the Post-Civil War North, 1865-1901, Richardson studies the changing attitudes of Northerners toward black Americans from 1861 until the publication of Booker T. Washington's Up from Slavery in 1901. In following the Northern disenchantment with Reconstruction, she studies subjects that include black suffrage, westward migration, taxation, racism and violence, and civil rights. She provides insights into the backlash by Northerners who saw black workers as a threat to their own success and who opposed Republican efforts to help the freed Southerners become economically viable. These Northerners, including and influenced by the popular press, saw new legislation as providing benefits to a group of people they felt had not worked for them. In addition, they thought their property rights would suffer if blacks voted and held office.
The situation worsened with the depression of 1893, and by the end of the decade, blacks had become disenfranchised. Richardson contends that, to a great extent it wasn't racism that caused Northerners to reject equality for freed blacks, but rather a fear that the free labor movement could be destroyed by black political power.
In reviewing the book in the Journal of Southern History, Michael W. Fitzgerald wrote: "While Richardson concedes racism had much to do with the eventual outcome, her emphasis is on fears of class warfare and social disorder—and how they affected white northern perceptions of black behavior. In essence, Parisian Communards and a politically corrupt working class pushed well-off northerners into the arms of white southerners."
In an H-Net review Shepherd W. McKinley wrote: "Richardson does recognize Republican divisions, and demonstrates why they created temporary alliances to each other or with northern Democrats. Plunging into an era of rabid political alienation, this work follows the creation, and the consequences, of American public opinion during and after Reconstruction, and helps explain more than a few strange bedfellows. Most importantly, Richardson provides a more detailed interpretation of the abandonment of African Americans during Reconstruction. The Death of Reconstruction is a well-written, strongly-argued book with a convincing, plausible, and attractive argument that will appeal to popular as well as academic readers."
West from Appomattox: The Reconstruction of America after the Civil War is Richardson's study of how American identity came to be defined. She follows American history to the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt in showing how the geographic regions of the United States melded into a more cohesive country. She profiles individuals who lived in the time following the Civil War, and who recorded their lives in a way that makes them and their time more historically significant. They include Booker T. Washington, Julia Ward Howe, Andrew Carnegie, and Sitting Bull, as well as a plantation mistress, a Native American, and a labor organizer. Richardson notes that the nation was redefined by the image of the rugged American West, more by those who idealized it than had actually lived there. If hardworking Southern black men lost their jobs when they stood up for their rights, they could go West and work as equals alongside white cowboys, although Native Americans seldom had the same opportunity. White-collar workers in the East filled the growing number of jobs and were able to provide comfortable lives for their family.
Richardson feels that contemporary America is similar to the Gilded Age and compares George W. Bush's sending of soldiers to Iraq with Theodore Roosevelt's charge up San Juan Hill. It was a time in which Americans were trying to find a middle ground that would profit both business and workers while limiting taxation and controls, but Gilded Ages cannot last forever. As Michael Kazin noted in the American Prospect, real wages in the United States are stagnant, and Americans want something done about the minimum wage, global warming, and health care coverage. Because of the ongoing war in the Middle East, the Republicans are no longer seen as the protector of the national interest. Kazin concluded: "If a new Progressive Era has yet to begin, it is more because liberals aren't ready to mobilize public sentiment than because that sentiment is not lumbering their way. But I would bet that the new Gilded Age—with all its glitz and pain—is history."
H-Net reviewer Elaine Frantz Parsons concluded a review of West from Appomattox by saying that it "was undeniably engaging and stimulating, as it put a number of familiar events and figures from the period in new contexts and a new light. Richardson's book is daring in its scope and in the strength of its thesis, and even when one might disagree with some of its conclusions and emphases, it richly rewards a thorough read."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, April, 1998, James L. Huston, review of The Greatest Nation of the Earth: Republican Economic Policies during the Civil War, p. 599; December, 2003, Melinda Lawson, review of The Death of Reconstruction: Race, Labor, and Politics in the Post-Civil War North, 1865-1901, p. 1457.
American Prospect, May, 2007, Michael Kazin, review of West from Appomattox: The Reconstruction of America after the Civil War, p. 41.
Business History Review, spring, 1998, Jeremy Atack, review of The Greatest Nation of the Earth, p. 152; spring, 2002, Michael S. Green, review of The Death of Reconstruction, p. 149.
Choice, October, 1997, E.D. Odom, review of The Greatest Nation of the Earth, p. 357; April, 2002, T.F. Armstrong, review of The Death of Reconstruction, p. 1484.
Civil War History, June, 1998, John D. Morton, review of The Greatest Nation of the Earth, p. 148.
Economic Journal, May, 1998, review of The Greatest Nation of the Earth, p. 959.
Ethnic and Racial Studies, January, 2003, review of The Death of Reconstruction, p. 188.
Historian, winter, 2000, James A. Hodges, review of The Greatest Nation of the Earth, p. 421; spring, 2006, Richard L. Aynes, review of The Death of Reconstruction, p. 163.
History: Review of New Books, spring, 1998, Robert Sawrey, review of The Greatest Nation of the Earth, p. 123; summer, 2002, Frederick M. Beatty, review of The Death of Reconstruction, p. 145.
Journal of American History, March, 1998, Paul F. Paskoff, review of The Greatest Nation of the Earth, p. 1515; December, 2002, Stephen Kantrowitz, review of The Death of Reconstruction, p. 1056.
Journal of American Studies, April, 2003, Robert Harrison, review of The Death of Reconstruction, p. 144.
Journal of Economic Literature, December, 1997, review of The Greatest Nation of the Earth, p. 2175; March, 2002, review of The Death of Reconstruction, p. 292.
Journal of Southern History, May, 2003, Michael W. Fitzgerald, review of The Death of Reconstruction, p. 451.
Labor History, February, 2003, Robert H. Zieger, review of The Death of Reconstruction, p. 137.
Library Journal, August, 2001, Robert Flatley, review of The Death of Reconstruction, p. 132.
New York Times Book Review, July 22, 2007, Mark Lewis, review of West from Appomattox, p. 14.
Reference & Research Book News, November, 1997, review of The Greatest Nation of the Earth, p. 57.
Reviews in American History, June, 2002, Michael Perman, review of The Death of Reconstruction, p. 252.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), Elizabeth Young, March 18, 2007, review of West from Appomattox, p. 3.
Washington Post Book World, April 15, 2007, Edward L. Ayers, review of West from Appomattox, p. 2.
H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online,http://www.h-net.org/ (April 27, 2008), Shepherd W. McKinley, review of The Death of Reconstruction, and Elaine Frantz Parsons, review of West from Appomattox.
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Web site,http://www.umass.edu/ (April 27, 2008), author profile.
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