Commenter deathbypapers offered to write up a guest-post on historiography behind our book club pick. Some of this is in the notes, and historians in the group will be familiar. Still, I think it's a great frame. As a side note, this is all very eerie for me, as I failed Historiography at Howard. I did retake and pass, though. Anyway, some popular names will pop up here--Authur Schlesinger, Sean Wilentz...
At the risk of "burying the lede," allow me to introduce myself. My name is John Rosinbum, and I am a third year PhD student at Arizona State University and occasional commenter (deathbypapers). While my specialization is in the 20th century Americas (specifically the Central American Refugee Crisis), I was fortunate enough to participate in a graduate readings seminar that used What Hath God Wrought as its culminating text. WHGW is an incredible book, and I look forward to our discussions.
At the same time, it is the type of book that requires some historiographical context to be fully understood. All historians stand on the shoulders of those who have come before, even though while standing they often try to trample (or reinterpret) those underneath. Howe in WHGW is no exception. Hopefully you will find the discussion below useful. I will be lurking in the comments so feel free to offer critiques or ask me to elaborate.
For decades historians have believed that Jackson and his ilk were the most important figures of the era between the War of 1812 and the Great Compromise/Seneca Falls Convention. Historians of this school include such luminaries as Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Sean Wilentz. For Schlesinger struggle between the lower classes made up of urban workers and small farmers against the upper class composed of factory owners and the landed gentry crystallized over the debate to extend the franchise. The successful extension of the right-to-vote to non-propertied whites, coupled with the nation's territorial growth, made this an era chiefly characterized by expansion.
Wilentz's thesis is a bit more sophisticated than Schlesinger's. Rather than placing the undifferentiated
masses at the foundation of Jacksonian democracy, Wilentz highlights the role
of highly skilled urban artisans.
Developed in Chants Democratic and further refined in The Rise of
American Democracy, Wilentz argues that the artisans made up a highly self-conscious
republican working class that fought the imposition of wage labor while
simultaneously agitating for their right to vote.
This article available online at: