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Publisher's Summary

While the North prevailed in the Civil War, ending slavery and giving the country a "new birth of freedom," Heather Cox Richardson argues in this provocative work that democracy's blood-soaked victory was ephemeral. The system that had sustained the defeated South moved westward and there established a foothold. It was a natural fit. Settlers from the East had for decades been pushing into the West, where the seizure of Mexican lands at the end of the Mexican-American War and treatment of Native Americans cemented racial hierarchies. The South and West equally depended on extractive industries - cotton in the former and mining, cattle, and oil in the latter - giving rise a new birth of white male oligarchy, despite the guarantees provided by the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, and the economic opportunities afforded by expansion. 

To reveal why this happened, How the South Won the Civil War traces the story of the American paradox, the competing claims of equality and subordination woven into the nation's fabric and identity. At the nation's founding, it was the Eastern "yeoman farmer" who galvanized and symbolized the American Revolution. After the Civil War, that mantle was assumed by the Western cowboy, singlehandedly defending his land against barbarians and savages as well as from a rapacious government. New states entered the Union in the late nineteenth century and western and southern leaders found yet more common ground. As resources and people streamed into the West during the New Deal and World War II, the region's influence grew. "Movement Conservatives," led by westerners Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan, claimed to embody cowboy individualism and worked with Dixiecrats to embrace the ideology of the Confederacy.

Richardson's searing book seizes upon the soul of the country and its ongoing struggle to provide equal opportunity to all. Debunking the myth that the Civil War released the nation from the grip of oligarchy, expunging the sins of the Founding, it reveals how and why the Old South not only survived in the West, but thrived.

©2020 by Heather Cox Richardson. (P)2020 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved.

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Excellent, highly recommended

The American paradox Richardson describes so well is hard to comprehend; a white male elite convinced citizens that extending the franchise would make them and every other white God fearing American poorer. But just look at the demagogue who lost an election and was still nonetheless able to convince a plurality of citizens they were robbed. The book took me back to my childhood where I swam in a beautiful pool in lovely surroundings in Rock Island Illinois during the 50’s and 60’s. Much to my shame I couldn’t remember a single black person. It made me feel sad because black families lived just two blocks away from us. Where did those black children swim? Books like this remind us just what our future will be if we allow ourselves to be deceived by the big lie that if my neighbour succeeds I will inevitably fall behind. See Richardson’s Ted Talk, it’s a great synopsis. Highly recommend the book.
Dawson Ruhl

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Packed full of historical events

This book is an amazing collection of events and little known connections between events that follow the thread of oligarchs and their influence on politics and society.
So many bits of data it is easy to get lost and in the multiple timelines and threads.
Could have done with a bit more analysis and commentary to make more sense of all the detail, but perhaps the author just wanted to avoid opinion.

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  • Ekim N.
  • 05-06-2020

A Concealed Story that Could Not be More Relevant

this is the story of how the current Republican party is the Confederates of the 19th century, and how they got there. The author does a brilliant job with storytelling and connecting the dots that people see throughout American history but can't quite wrap together... to make a linear path from the racist, slave-holding south to the terrible situation that the anti-democracy Republican party now tries to well its way in government and society. very easy listen and I hope this becomes a bestseller so everybody else can understand how we got where we are today.

19 people found this helpful

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  • S. Summers
  • 03-05-2020

An Important Thread of Our History

As a native Alabamian, I have watched in sadness and in anger at what I have been calling the Alabamafication of America, a process by which our worst regional impulses are becoming nationalized. This work provided me with essential ties to the West that I had not connected passed Texas, knowing that so many slaveowners seeking to escape mortgage foreclosures on their slave "properties" simply moved them to the Texas Territory beyond the legal reach of their creditors. I underestimated the reach of Confederate influence in the formation of the West.

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  • Cullen Cantwell
  • 16-05-2020

Stunning!

Exceptional book that spans American History to deliver a damning revelation. Cox Richardson navigates through the American History to constantly deliver on her premise: the United States is an oligarchy which disguises itself in the name of democracy and capitalism. Time and time again, the author delivers points on policy, culture, and other factors which prove that the commoners of the United States has never truly moved out of the shadow of the oligarchical antebellum South. The United States top have and are consistently consolidating power to progress their own self-interest.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Angie
  • 29-04-2020

Repeating History

Such a well written book and with Heather narrating, a very enjoyable listen. This book shows how the failure to learn from history leads to a continued repetition of Americans being divided by the wealthy elite and in turn, that division is used to continue a transfer of wealth and power to the oligarchs. I highly recommend!

7 people found this helpful

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  • Iver
  • 22-06-2020

Clear, Compelling and Fascinating

This is the best explanation I have encountered of how the US has arrived at this political and cultural moment. The story is vivid, fast-moving and well-substantiated. The author, a historian and educator, also does a great job of reading her work, adding just the right amount of subtle emphasis at the right times.

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  • Mitzy
  • 11-06-2020

spoilers? I'm practicing verbalizing the lesson

At the end I reflected on what had stayed constant in the ideology of the South as it migrated parties, etc. The author said the American Paradox, I need your freedom to be curtailed for my liberty, and valuing property rights above all other Human Rights, Blacks have less support (all of that typically guised in "rugged individualism")

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  • Jared Covarrubias
  • 27-06-2020

Now I understand how we got here today

I understand how we got here today. I have always been a US history buff and have always had a deep understanding of the real American history with many of the untold stories you don’t hear in high school. This book takes it two steps further helping to illustrate how politics and the political party became what it is today.

5 people found this helpful

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  • mark moorhead
  • 15-06-2020

Well, that’s pretty depressing...

Prof. Richardson’s text functons as a call to arms for those adherents to demcratic principles. Principles which stretch back to Enlightenment era thinking and champion humankind’s impulse toward the greater good for the many, recognizing the perfidy of those few whose monetary advantage provides leverage to the few who would

5 people found this helpful

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  • Brieux
  • 31-05-2020

Connecting the Dots from our history to today.

I am sure here are times when "You know something is happening but you don't know what it is". Well thank you Bob Dylan and thank you Heather Cox Richardson for presenting the history of American and showing us what was and is still happening behind the curtain. I wish the book was uplifting and excited for the future. Typically an optimist it is difficult to see how we can find our way through the muddle to realize the ideal that should be for America.

4 people found this helpful

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  • David E. Doetsch
  • 26-05-2020

A must read historical powerhouse!

How did we end up in the age of oligarchs ruling the United States of America? This book gives the evidence that we've been in a tug of war over democracy since day one under Washington.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Sera
  • 19-05-2020

Fascinating, enjoyable, insightful

Fascinating insight into why the US is the way it is today, with ideologies of past times still very much present in today’s society and the cyclical dominance of oligarchy, with its rise and fall, repeated, being a core aspect of US history. For someone not too knowledgeable of US history I was not overwhelmed by information nor was I in want of more to put be able to put the discussion into context.

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  • lisa cain
  • 28-04-2021

Enlightening

As someone trying to come to terms with my Southern heritage, this excellent book has helped debunk many of the myths I was told. Clear sighted, educated and broad, it puts our epic journey into perspective.

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