A Dangerous Stir

Fear, Paranoia, and the Making of Reconstruction

By Mark Wahlgren Summers

342 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 18 illus., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2015-2
    Published: May 2014
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-1040-5
    Published: December 2012

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Reconstruction policy after the Civil War, observes Mark Wahlgren Summers, was shaped not simply by politics, principles, and prejudices. Also at work were fears--often unreasonable fears of renewed civil war and a widespread sense that four years of war had thrown the normal constitutional process so dangerously out of kilter that the republic itself remained in peril.

To understand Reconstruction, Summers contends, one must understand that the purpose of the North's war was--first and foremost--to save the Union with its republican institutions intact. During Reconstruction there were always fears in the mix--that the Civil War had settled nothing, that the Union was still in peril, and that its enemies and the enemies of republican government were more resilient and cunning than normal mortals. Many factors shaped the reintegration of the former Confederate states and the North's commitment to Reconstruction, Summers agrees, but the fears of war reigniting, plots against liberty, and a president prepared to father a coup d'état ranked higher among them than historians have recognized.

Both a dramatic narrative of the events of Reconstruction and a groundbreaking new look at what drove these events, A Dangerous Stir is also a valuable look at the role of fear in the politics of the time--and in politics in general.

About the Author

Mark Wahlgren Summers is Thomas D. Clark Professor of History at the University of Kentucky, Lexington. He is the author of seven books, including Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion: The Making of a President, 1884 and Party Games: Getting, Keeping, and Using Power in Gilded Age Politics (both UNC Press).
For more information about Mark Wahlgren Summers, visit the Author Page.

Reviews

"Both a dramatic narrative of the events of the Reconstruction and a groundbreaking new look at what drove these events, A Dangerous Stir is also a valuable look at the role of fear in the politics of the time--and in politics in general."--McCormick Messenger

"Most historians write about what happened in the past. Summers, in his new history of Reconstruction, instead writes about what failed to occur. . . . [And] chronicles the fears that gripped the people of the era."--Virginia Quarterly Review

"Offers provocative historical context for thinking about the reactionary rhetoric of today."--Civil War Book Review

"Summers's premise is an intriguing one and his book maintains a feeling of uncertainty, even though the story is well known."--H-Civil War

"Deeply researched and cleverly written, this new examination of the dark side of Reconstruction will inform, enlighten, and may create a 'stir' of its own."--The Journal of American History

“Based on extensive research and written in readable prose, this stimulating study is not a general study of 1865-1869. . . . Provides excellent brief biographies. . . . Recommended.”--Choice