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Civil War by Other Means

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Civil War By Other Means is the perfect name for such a great book. Any one of the topics touched on in this book could fall under that heading. From President Hayes is back room, hand shake election to the assassination of President Lincoln and then President Garfield all the way to the new deal.  It seemed president Lincoln, got us on track but with his death went the dream of equality and happiness and prosperity for all. The chapters and subjects in this book differ but the overall message is clear. I think the author did a great job not only making the book interesting but spelling it out and lying the fax bear for everyone to see I know there will be people who disagreed with this book and I also know which side of the aisle they would stand in an election but let me be clear I am neither Republican or Democrat and fax don’t lie and this book is full of them. I thoroughly enjoyed this book without an intelligent smart advocate for fairness and a true democracy it will just keep going the way it has been. What a great book and what perfect timing. I received this book from Net Galley and the publisher but I am leaving this review voluntarily please forgive any mistakes as I am blind and dictate my review.
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In Civil War by Other Means: America's Long and Unfinished Fight for Democracy Jeremi Suri offers a detailed history of the period just after the Civil War and illustrates how the missed opportunity then has plagued the nation ever since.

A lot of what is in here isn't so much new as it is presented in a cohesive narrative with a focus on what was done to either try to build a better democracy or, conversely, keep a grossly dysfunctional democracy. As is painfully obvious today, the dysfunctionality has been winning the day.

While some things, whether we knew the details or not, won't surprise us, it is some of the facts we have overlooked that shed a great deal of light. For instance, many people either didn't know or had forgotten that the Republican party of Lincoln was also a response by whites to what they perceived to be a threat to their way of life. They weren't so much anti-slavery as they were anti-slaveowners. So in the aftermath of the Civil War, it wasn't such a big shift for them to become just as openly racist as the old Confederates. A hundred and fifty years later and it is even more evident that the differences were never as great as some have believed.

We never even started out living up to the ideals put on paper. So it isn't much of a surprise that even when new legislation is enacted that is supposed to improve democracy it is circumvented by those who feel threatened, who see life as a zero-sum game. From slavery to Jim Crow to white supremacist paramilitary units called police, there has been little de facto change, and we are perilously close to losing anything that resembles a democracy thanks to our inability over many generations to live up to ideals we spout but don't live.

This is an accessible book that is well-researched and has substantial notes for anyone wanting to do more research. The roots of our current problems long pre-date the Civil War, but this was the ideal chance to make things right, and we didn't. If you want to understand what exactly we failed to do and why, this is the book for you.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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I was really interested in reading this book, as someone who has read a lot of Suri's other work.  It definitely was in a different vein than what he has done before. The strength of this book is that it bridges a gap between popular history and academic work.  Suri's story may not be anything new to someone who know a lot of history and certainly won't appeal to academics, but this is an example of history that is written by a professional for people who don't want to read academic monographs.  
It's easily accessible and told through the lens of many historical figures.  It incorporates all of the major events of Reconstruction and after, and will help Americans refresh their historical knowledge of the time period.  
It also is a great example of how history can still be made relevant today, to help us understand our nation and our own conflicts.  The first few pages?  What a great hook.  No, history doesn't repeat itself, but to understand where we are we can look backwards for the path.
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