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Building the American Republic, Volume 2

A Narrative History from 1877

Building the American Republic combines centuries of perspectives and voices into a fluid narrative of the United States. Throughout their respective volumes, Harry L. Watson and Jane Dailey take care to integrate varied scholarly perspectives and work to engage a diverse readership by addressing what we all share: membership in a democratic republic, with joint claims on its self-governing tradition. It will be one of the first peer-reviewed American history textbooks to be offered completely free in digital form. Visit for more information. 

The American nation came apart in a violent civil war less than a century after ratification of the Constitution. When it was reborn five years later, both the republic and its Constitution were transformed. Volume 2 opens as America struggles to regain its footing, reeling from a presidential assassination and facing massive economic growth, rapid demographic change, and combustive politics.

The next century and a half saw the United States enter and then dominate the world stage, even as the country struggled to live up to its own principles of liberty, justice, and equality. Volume 2 of Building the American Republic takes the reader from the Gilded Age to the present, as the nation becomes an imperial power, rethinks the Constitution, witnesses the rise of powerful new technologies, and navigates an always-shifting cultural landscape shaped by an increasingly diverse population. Ending with the 2016 election, this volume provides a needed reminder that the future of the American republic depends on a citizenry that understands—and can learn from—its history.

See also the first volume of Building the American Republic.

Download the free, open-access text at a website for the books.

472 pages | 13 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2018

History: American History

Political Science: American Government and Politics


Building the American Republic tells the story of the United States with remarkable grace and skill, its fast-moving narrative making the nation’s struggles and accomplishments new and compelling.  Weaving together stories of a broad range of Americans, drawing from the best scholarship, and writing in a warm and engaging voice, Watson and Dailey have crafted an inclusive history that is a pleasure to read.”

Edward L. Ayers, Tucker-Boatwright Professor of the Humanities, University of Richmond

“Learned and inviting, this beautifully realized consideration of the American experience deploys the craft of history to advance a profound account of fundamental themes. By integrating political, social, demographic, and economic understanding, the combination of analysis and narrative power in Building the American Republic will prove stimulating to teachers as well as their students.”

Ira Katznelson, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History, Columbia University

“Written by two leading political historians, Building the American Republic provides an engaging and accessible narrative of US history that combines a lucid discussion of American political institutions with an analysis of major social movements and cultural developments. Students will find the book an invaluable point of departure for gaining a deeper understanding of the American past.”

Rosemarie Zagarri, University Professor and Professor of History, George Mason University

“Most of our teaching materials have morphed into four-color glossy multimedia extravaganzas with interactive features, hot-links, and ‘chat with the author’ interfaces that confront students with a food court of undifferentiated choices. But these new volumes look like and read like books. Without reverting to a pompous omniscience, which so often mars this kind of effort, these books manage to exhibit many perspectives and voices in a narrative that provokes discussion and invites reflection.”

Journal of the Early Republic

Table of Contents


1          Incorporation, 1870–1900

In Motion
Iron Horses
“Vast, Trackless Spaces”: The Trans-Mississippi West
Manifest Destiny
Immigration, Migration, and Urbanization

The Labor Question
Free Labor
Risk Management
From Strife to Cooperation
Labor Politics
Labor Wars

Enlightened Selfishness: Reforming Politics and People
Patronage Politics
The Business of Government
The Farmers’ Alliance

Organized Women
Onward Christian Soldiers
The Great Commoner
The Election of 1896

Race and Equality in the Turn-of-the-Century South
Wrestling with the Fourteenth Amendment
The Politics of White Supremacy
Making Jim Crow
The New South

2          Interconnected, 1898–1914

Into the Open Arena of the World
The Spanish-American War
American Empire
The Civilization Trust
America in the World

The Republican Roosevelt
Taking on the Trusts
Trains and Coal
The People’s Welfare
“English Economics” and Its Critics
Perpetual Censors

America in the World, 1901–1912
Duty, Dollars, and Destiny
The Best Herder of Emperors since Napoleon
Dollar Diplomacy
Americans Abroad

The Progressive Era
The Progressives
Petticoat Politicians and Sewer Socialists
The Panic of 1907
Republican Fracture, 1908–1912

New Freedoms
The Revolution of 1913, Part 1: Money
The Revolution of 1913, Part 2: Banks
The Revolution of 1913, Part 3: Jim Crow Comes to Washington
The Revolution of 1913, Part 4: Foreign Policy

3          War, 1914–1924

The War to End All Wars
A Less-than-Principled Neutrality
Be Prepared
America Enters the War
A War of Ideals

Perilous Times: The United States at War
The Espionage Act of 1917
Forging Consensus at Home
America’s Moment
Meester Veelson

Progressives at High Tide
The Wartime State
Mobility and Mobs, Law and Lawlessness
Operation Occupy the White House: Militant Woman Suffrage

Rival Utopias
We Return Fighting
Red Scare
Discovering the First Amendment
Illegal Activities

4          Vertigo, 1920–1928

The Roaring Twenties
Engines of Growth
“Businessmen’s Government”
The Countryside
Get Rich Quick

Modern Women
From Women’s Rights to Feminism
Obscene Literatures and Articles of Immoral Use
Reproductive Politics
Work and Home Life

Social Control
“Three Generations of Imbeciles Are Enough”
“Americanizing” America
America for Americans

Teach Your Children Well
Standardized Children
Science, Schools, and Religion
Freedom from Science
Freedom from Religion

The Jim Crow North
The Shame of America
“We Stand Defeated America”
The 1928 Presidential Election

5          Depression, 1928–1938

Meltdown, 1928–1933
The Premier Bureaucrat of the Decade
International Economic Complications
Coping with Crisis
From Bad to Worse

“Strong Medicine,” 1933–1935
Roosevelt Redux
Do We Need a Dictator?
Nothing to Fear
100 Days: Money and Crops
100 Days: Markets and Workers

A Government of Humanity
Forging an Economic Constitutional Order
Chasing Security
Social Security
Labor Rising
Triumph of the Will

The Supreme Court and the New Deal
Defending Dixie

6          Assertion, 1938–1946

Entangling Alliances
Not Our Problem
Blitzkrieg, Sitzkrieg, and Sitting on Hands
Rising Sun

Mobilizing for War
The Gross National Product War
Why We Fight
Domestic Violence
“Ill-Advised, Unnecessary, and Cruel”: Japanese American Internment

War without Mercy
The War in Europe
The War in the Pacific
Endgame in Europe
Race War
Victory in Asia

At the Summit of the World
Beyond Belief: The Holocaust
The United Nations
A New World at Home
Civil Rights and Human Rights

7          Containment, 1946–1953

Postwar/Cold War
New Divisions
The Marshall Plan
New Alliances and New States

To Secure These Rights
Creating the Permanent War State
Postwar Civil Rights
Challenges from the Right and the Left
The 1948 Presidential Election

Anti-Communist Crusades at Home
Seeing Red
Assaults on Liberty
Fightin’ Joe

The American Way of Life
The Consumers’ Republic
Flushing Together
“Horror in the Nursery”
Good Rockin’ Tonight

8          At Odds, 1954–1965

A Nation of Men or of Laws? Responses to Brown
Massive Resistance
The Montgomery Bus Boycott
Trouble in Little Rock

A Divided America in the Cold War Years
The Dangers of a Bipolar World
Superpower Confrontations in Europe and the Middle East

The New Frontier
Berlin and Cuba
Economic Growth and Economic Equity
The Woman Question

Civil Rights: The Next Generation
The Sit-Ins
Freedom Riders and Other Disturbers of the Peace
Birmingham and the March on Washington
Civil Rights and Voting Rights Laws
The Warren Court and Civil Liberties

9          Riven, 1965–1968

Lyndon Johnson’s America
The Great Society
The War on Poverty
Pursuing Equality
Racial Inequality in the Cities

Johnson’s Dilemma
On the Ground
1968: The Beginning of the End

We Can Change the World: The Rising Generation
Question Authority
Black Power
Ballots and Bullets
The Antiwar Movement

Lyndon’s Fall
Spring: Killing Season
Summer in Chicago
Autumn: The Election

10        Breakdown, 1968–1974

Bringing the Nation Together, 1968–1972
“It’s Not the Bus, It’s Us”
White Flight

Americans Abroad
Further Foreign Fault Lines
Middle Eastern Complications

A Government of Laws or of Men?
Reelection: The “Silent Majority” Speaks
The New Majority
Dirty Tricks
Breach of Faith
Abuse of Power

Women’s Work
Rights and Obligations
“Our Bodies, Ourselves”
Pushing Back

11        Right, 1974–1989

Harsh Economic Realities
Political Economy 101, Part 1
The Politics of Scarcity

The Californiaization of American Politics
Holy Warriors
The Election of 1976
Bad Luck
The Californian

The Reagan Revolution
Government Is the Problem
Taking Back the Courts
Political Economy 101, Part 2

Defeating the Evil Empire
Containment 2.0
Contra the Constitution
Arms for Hostages

The End of the Cold War
Repercussions of Iran-Contra
Peaceful Coexistence
Light at the End of the Tunnel

12        Vulnerable, 1989–2001

The United States in the Post–Cold War World
A New World Order
Afghanistan, 1978–1996
Iraq, 1980–1990
The Gulf War
The Saudis

New Republicans and New Democrats
Republican Fracture
A “New Democrat” at the Helm
Clinton in Office
Crime, Guns, and Race
Family Values

The Road to the Twenty-First Century
The “Goldilocks Economy”
The Unipolar Moment: Foreign Policy under Clinton

Regime Change
The 2000 Election
Indecision 2000
The Bush Administration
Compassionate Conservatism in Action

13        Forward, 2001–2016

The Post-9/11 World
“A Strategic Error of the First Magnitude”
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Not a Blank Check
The Shame of America

The Great Recession
The Great Bubble Transfer
Moral Hazards

Of the People, by the People, for the People?
Voting Rights: Access and Boundaries
Campaign Finance Reform, Part 1
Campaign Finance Reform, Part 2

Land of Opportunity?
The Great U-Turn
At Last
A Postracial Society?

Change We Can Believe In
Expanding the Social Safety Net: Health Care
Marriage Equality
“Doubt Is Our Product”

The Rise of the Radical Right and the Election of 2016

For Further Reading

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