Academic journal article The Journal of the Civil War Era

The Future of Reconstruction Studies Reconstruction in the West

Academic journal article The Journal of the Civil War Era

The Future of Reconstruction Studies Reconstruction in the West

Article excerpt

It is time to reconstruct our thinking about Reconstruction. Specifically, we need to reconceive the middle of the nineteenth century as a time when the United States was fundamentally changed by two events, the Civil War and our expansion to the Pacific between 1845 and 1848. Each event altered greatly the national trajectory, and so each deserves our attention on its own terms. Both, however, interacted, raised, or amplified the same basic questions and answered those questions in strikingly similar ways. Bringing the two narratives together requires us to expand the boundaries of Reconstruction in both time and space. The Greater Reconstruction began in 1845 and ended around 1877, with the withdrawal of the last federal troops from the South and the culmination of the War against Indian America, and it encompassed the full expanded nation, from coast to coast and in its new international connections, in particular with Latin America to the south and the Pacific basin the west.

Expansion played crucially in the national narrative from then until now. …

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