Cover: The Great Heart of the Republic: St. Louis and the Cultural Civil War, from Harvard University PressCover: The Great Heart of the Republic in HARDCOVER

The Great Heart of the Republic

St. Louis and the Cultural Civil War

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$47.00 • £40.95 • €42.95

ISBN 9780674052888

Publication Date: 01/03/2011


352 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

22 halftones, 2 maps


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Arenson has something new to add to the literature of the Civil War, and he does so with a wonderfully nuanced argument and deft pen. Sure to have an enduring impact, this book delivers on its promise.—Stephen D. Engle, American Historical Review

Arenson’s The Great Heart of the Republic…reveals the fresh and complex insights that close study of Missouri can yield for our understanding of nineteenth-century American history… Arenson’s book offers a much broader interpretation of the Civil War than a typical work of local history. Rather than provide a comprehensive account of St. Louis’s past, he uses the city’s story to reveal a ‘nuanced, intimate history of the Civil War era from the heart of the republic.’ The result is a beautifully written and strikingly original interpretation of the causes, conduct, and consequences of the war. Like the authors of several recent works, Arenson wishes to reorient the discussion of sectionalism and the Civil War by emphasizing the West’s importance in shaping the conflict. In Arenson’s recounting, the war looks less like a fight between North and South over slavery, and more like a messy struggle between northerners, southerners, and westerners from a variety of ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds… Arenson’s work is wide ranging and ambitious, covering art, architecture, and historical memory as well as the history of politics and policy… Readers will discover a creative history of mid-nineteenth-century America in microcosm.—Andre M. Fleche, History News Network

In the elegantly written, extensively researched The Great Heart of the Republic Adam Arenson looks at Civil War St. Louis and tells how it was unable to set aside sectional differences to transform itself into a truly national city.—Jane Henderson, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

An ambitious, innovative, and engaging look at the pivotal role St. Louis played in the cultural contest to determine the destiny of the United States.—Stephen Aron, author of American Confluence

Arenson’s beautifully told story of the rise and fall of St. Louis’s efforts to invent itself as a center of American enlightenment and empire in the long Civil War era shows Manifest Destiny as a lived reality, with intoxicating and toxic implications for ordinary Americans.—Iver Bernstein, author of The New York City Draft Riots: Their Significance for American Society and Politics in the Age of the Civil War

This is a superb book. Careful and bold all at once, it reminds us that the ‘gateway to the West’ played a major role not only in the coming of the Civil War but in the contests—cultural, social, and racial—it so tragically provoked.—William Deverell, Director, Huntington–USC Institute on California and the West

Arenson sets St. Louis at the center of nineteenth-century America’s ‘cultural civil wars’ as dramas of competing visions of the nation’s future played out on the city’s streets and docks and in its courtrooms, churches, and classrooms. In this beautifully crafted book, the national stories we thought we knew take on new depth and take some surprising turns.—Ann Fabian, author of The Skull Collectors: Race, Science, and America’s Unburied Dead

From the Great Fire of 1849 to the completion of the Eads Bridge in 1874, Arenson examines the cultural civil war through a city that aspired to be the unifying center of the American continental empire. St. Louis’ successes and failures richly illuminate national travails as the promise of Manifest Destiny succumbed to the politics of slavery.—Louis S. Gerteis, author of Civil War St. Louis

A sweeping, illuminating work that offers a fresh perspective on the period from the Mexican War to the post-Reconstruction era. Adding a western dimension to the sectional crisis of the Civil War era, Arenson’s narrative is revelatory.—Michael A. Morrison, author of Slavery and the American West

In compelling prose that balances brilliant analyses with rich narrative details and lively anecdotes, Arenson offers an important new argument about nineteenth-century U.S. history. His book combines the most thorough scholarship with the pleasures of a frontier romance.—Aaron Sachs, author of The Humboldt Current

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