The Rise and Fall of the Second American Republic: Reconstruction, 1860-1920 (Hardcover)

The Rise and Fall of the Second American Republic: Reconstruction, 1860-1920 By Manisha Sinha Cover Image

The Rise and Fall of the Second American Republic: Reconstruction, 1860-1920 (Hardcover)

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"Sinha not only has taken on this vast subject, but has greatly expanded its definition, both temporally and spatially. . . . She covers these difficult issues with remarkable skill and clarity." —S. C. Gwynne, New York Times Book Review


We are told that the present moment bears a strong resemblance to Reconstruction, the era after the Civil War when the victorious North attempted to create an interracial democracy in the unrepentant South. That effort failed—and that failure serves as a warning today about violent backlash to the mere idea of black equality.


In The Rise and Fall of the Second American Republic, acclaimed historian Manisha Sinha expands our view beyond the accepted temporal and spatial bounds of Reconstruction, which is customarily said to have begun in 1865 with the end of the war, and to have come to a close when the "corrupt bargain" of 1877 put Rutherford B. Hayes in the White House in exchange for the fall of the last southern Reconstruction state governments. Sinha’s startlingly original account opens in 1860 with the election of Abraham Lincoln that triggered the secession of the Deep South states, and take us all the way to 1920 and the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted women the right to vote—and which Sinha calls the "last Reconstruction amendment."


Within this grand frame, Sinha narrates the rise and fall of what she calls the "Second American Republic." The Reconstruction of the South, a process driven by the alliance between the formerly enslaved at the grassroots and Radical Republicans in Congress, is central to her story, but only part of it. As she demonstrates, the US Army’s conquest of Indigenous nations in the West, labor conflict in the North, Chinese exclusion, women’s suffrage, and the establishment of an overseas American empire were all part of the same struggle between the forces of democracy and those of reaction. The main concern of Reconstruction was the plight of the formerly enslaved, but its fall affected other groups as well: women, workers, immigrants, and Native Americans. From the election of black legislators across the South in the late 1860s to the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 to the colonial war in the Philippines in the 1890s, Sinha narrates the major episodes of the era and introduces us to key individuals, famous and otherwise, who helped remake American democracy, or whose actions spelled its doom.


A sweeping narrative that remakes our understanding of perhaps the most consequential period in American history, The Rise and Fall of the Second American Republic shows how the great contest of that age is also the great contest of our age—and serves as a necessary reminder of how young and fragile our democracy truly is.



Manisha Sinha is the Draper Chair in American History at the University of Connecticut. Her latest book, The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition, won the Frederick Douglass Book Prize among several others and was long listed for the National Book Award for Non-Fiction.
Product Details ISBN: 9781631498442
ISBN-10: 1631498444
Publisher: Liveright
Publication Date: March 26th, 2024
Pages: 592
Language: English
Manisha Sinha not only has taken on this vast subject, but has greatly expanded its definition, both temporally and spatially. Her Reconstruction embraces the Progressive Era, women’s suffrage, the final wars against Native Americans, immigration and even U.S. imperialism in the latter 19th and early 20th centuries. She covers these difficult issues with remarkable skill and clarity. . . . Sinha convincingly advances her vision of Reconstruction all the way forward to 1920, when the 19th Amendment granted women’s suffrage. That landmark event was inspired by the marquee equal rights amendments of the Reconstruction era, which, Sinha writes, ‘bequeathed a legacy of political activism and progressive constitutionalism’ on the movement, a breath of air that gave America new life.
— S. C. Gwynne - New York Times Book Review

[A]n ambitious and expansive history of the tumultuous period known as Reconstruction… Sinha captures Reconstruction as a sweeping epic of lofty aspirations and impressive achievement by black Americans and their white allies. . . . Sinha’s deep familiarity with the abolition movement serves her particularly well. The abolitionists, as she shows, saw in the carnage of the Indian Wars an analogy to the racial animosity that was destroying Reconstruction. . . . vividly bring[s] to life the thwarted hopes not only of black Southerners but of countless other idealistic Americans as well, black and white, male and female, who sought a more democratic nation, one unblemished by racial violence and economic disparities.
— Fergus M. Bordewich - Wall Street Journal

[A] sweeping new history of what [Sinha] terms the ‘Second American Republic’ . . . [Sinha] has widened the lens to take in six decades of struggle and defeat in the ongoing battle between progressive change and reactionary retrenchment… [An] important and deeply researched book.
— Eugene L. Meyer - Washington Independent Review of Books

A nuanced history of Reconstruction and the ongoing resistance movements it begat . . . A strong addition to modern studies of Reconstruction, bringing feminist and internationalist elements to the fore.
— Kirkus Reviews

[R]igorously researched and brilliantly argued . . . Sinha challenges multiple myths about Reconstruction, beginning with the big white lie that it constituted a despotic imposition of federal power . . . The Rise and Fall of the Second American Republic does much to set the record straight.

— Steve Nathans-Kelly - New York Journal of Books

[Sinha’s] shrewdly argued study ties together many loose ends while providing propulsively narrated accounts of on-the-ground political violence and activism. It’s an all-encompassing new perspective on American history.


— Publishers Weekly, starred review

Manisha Sinha’s magnificent account of Reconstruction fleshes out and vastly expands what W.E.B. Du Bois dubbed ‘abolition democracy.’ The Second Republic was never merely a southern project but a national struggle with global implications. Reconstruction’s defeat ensured Jim Crow’s ascent as the law of the land and the ideology of colonial expansion. The January 6 insurrection is a consequence of this defeat, which will become crystal-clear to anyone who reads this book.
— Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

A landmark. Manisha Sinha’s searing and revelatory account of Reconstruction redraws its borders, redefines its meaning, and restores its place as the hinge upon which American history turns.
— Jill Lepore, New York Times best-selling author of These Truths

Studded with significant events, compelling stories, and little-known historical actors, The Rise and Fall of the Second American Republic is a sweepingly grand political history that traces the multiracial quest for ‘abolition democracy’ while expanding our understanding of the stakes and afterlives of the Reconstruction era.

— Tiya Miles, winner of the National Book Award for All That She Carried

A big and bold book. Manisha Sinha’s The Rise and Fall of the Second American Republic is marked by deep learning, expansive thinking, and compelling arguments. Readers will find it illuminating, challenging, and thought-provoking.

— Steven Hahn, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of Illiberal America

This is an account both luminous and tragic, which brings alive the violent defeat of Reconstruction but also the unremitting contest over the guarantees of democracy. In setting before us a sweeping history of Reconstruction—slave emancipation, the restoration of the Union, the dynamics of empire, the sovereignty of capital—Manisha Sinha has brilliantly transformed our understanding of the making of the American republic. This history holds vital meaning for the present.
— Amy Dru Stanley, author of From Bondage to Contract: Wage Labor, Marriage, and the Market in the Age of Slave Emancipation

With this remarkable book Manisha Sinha dramatically expands our understanding of Reconstruction, which she calls the Second American Republic.  It encompassed the entire nation, not simply the former Confederate states.  It ended not in 1877 but in the 1890s.  Reconstruction didn't fail; it was overthrown.  It was a major part of women's history, reaching its culmination with the achievement of women's suffrage, the last of the Reconstruction amendments, Sinha writes. Thanks to The Rise and Fall of the Second American Republic, Reconstruction will never look the same as it once did.

— James Oakes, author of The Crooked Path to Abolition: Abraham Lincoln and the Antislavery Constitution