The Nebraska-Kansas Act of 1854 turns upside down the traditional way of thinking about one of the most important laws ever passed in American history. The act that created Nebraska and Kansas also, in effect, abolished the Missouri Compromise, which had prohibited slavery in the region since 1820. This bow to local control outraged the nation and led to vicious confrontations, including Kansas' subsequent mini-civil war. At the 150th anniversary of the Kansas-Nebraska Act these scholars reexamine the political, social, and personal contexts of this act and its effect on the course of American history.
Countless studies of the American West have been written from the viewpoint of history, psychology, sociology, and anthropology. But the West has seldom been written about with the reflective pen of a philosopher. Offering more than a fresh retelling, in thoroughly human terms, of the major historical events of the nineteenth-century West, Gerald Kreyche also leads the reader in a search for the spirit of the West itself. That spirit was one with the American Dream, which offered freedom, individualism, and self-sufficiency to those strong enough and gutsy enough to heed the call of Manifest Destiny. Although the West was and is the most American part of America itself, its natural wonders, its spacious grandeur, its myths and mystique have captured the hearts and imaginations of people the world over. We have all experienced the quickened pulse at the mention of things indelibly western -- tumbleweed, mountain men, high plains, cowboys and Indians, sod houses, coyotes, and grizzlies. And who doesn't react to such bigger-than-life figures as Jim Bridger, Buffalo Bill, George Armstrong Custer, Sitting Bull, and Crazy Horse? The personal humdrum of our times rapidly disappears when, through the magic of western films, TV shows, and books, we vicariously lose ourselves and then find ourselves in the American West of a bygone time. The West, then, produced a quasi-separate culture. And, as each culture must, it gave birth to its own ethos, its own special character, its own tone and set of guiding beliefs. Kreyche contends that in the process of "westering," the veneer of the sophisticated easterner was sloughed off, leaving in sharp outline the frontiersman and the pioneer. In their own manner, these men and women produced a new species of homo americanus.
In the dramatic narratives that comprise The Republic of Nature, Mark Fiege reframes the canonical account of American history based on the simple but radical premise that nothing in the nation's past can be considered apart from the natural circumstances in which it occurred. Revisiting historical icons so familiar that schoolchildren learn to take them for granted, he makes surprising connections that enable readers to see old stories in a new light. Among the historical moments revisited here, a revolutionary nation arises from its environment and struggles to reconcile the diversity of its people with the claim that nature is the source of liberty. Abraham Lincoln, an unlettered citizen from the countryside, steers the Union through a moment of extreme peril, guided by his clear-eyed vision of nature's capacity for improvement. In Topeka, Kansas, transformations of land and life prompt a lawsuit that culminates in the momentous civil rights case of Brown v. Board of Education. By focusing on materials and processes intrinsic to all things and by highlighting the nature of the United States, Fiege recovers the forgotten and overlooked ground on which so much history has unfolded. In these pages, the nation's birth and development, pain and sorrow, ideals and enduring promise come to life as never before, making a once-familiar past seem new. The Republic of Nature points to a startlingly different version of history that calls on readers to reconnect with fundamental forces that shaped the American experience. For more information, visit the author's website: http://republicofnature.com/
An account of defining Nebraska moments, including: surviving the Oregon and Mormon trails; completing the Union Pacific Railroad; and winning national football championships, Nobel and Pulitzer prices, and presidential nominations.
Of all the interactions between American Indians and Euro-Americans, none was as fundamental as the acquisition of the indigenous peoples’ lands. To Euro-Americans this takeover of lands was seen as a natural right, an evolution to a higher use; to American Indians the loss of homelands was a tragedy involving also a loss of subsistence, a loss of history, and a loss of identity. Historical geographer David J. Wishart tells the story of the dispossession process as it affected the Nebraska Indians—Otoe-Missouria, Ponca, Omaha, and Pawnee—over the course of the nineteenth century. Working from primary documents, and including American Indian voices, Wishart analyzes the spatial and ecological repercussions of dispossession. Maps give the spatial context of dispossession, showing how Indian societies were restricted to ever smaller territories where American policies of social control were applied with increasing intensity. Graphs of population loss serve as reference lines for the narrative, charting the declining standards of living over the century of dispossession. Care is taken to support conclusions with empirical evidence, including, for example, specific details of how much the Indians were paid for their lands. The story is told in a language that is free from jargon and is accessible to a general audience.
“A masterwork [by] the preeminent historian of the Civil War era.”—Boston Globe Selected as a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times Book Review, this landmark work gives us a definitive account of Lincoln's lifelong engagement with the nation's critical issue: American slavery. A master historian, Eric Foner draws Lincoln and the broader history of the period into perfect balance. We see Lincoln, a pragmatic politician grounded in principle, deftly navigating the dynamic politics of antislavery, secession, and civil war. Lincoln's greatness emerges from his capacity for moral and political growth.