The Age of Reconstruction: How Lincoln’s New Birth of Freedom Remade the World

A sweeping history of how Union victory in the American Civil War inspired democratic reforms, revolutions, and emancipation movements in Europe and the Americas


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Jun 11, 2024
52 b/w illus.
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The Age of Reconstruction looks beyond post–Civil War America to tell the story of how Union victory and Lincoln’s assassination set off a dramatic international reaction that drove European empires out of the Americas, hastened the end of slavery in Latin America, and ignited a host of democratic reforms in Europe.

In this international history of Reconstruction, Don Doyle chronicles the world events inspired by the Civil War. Between 1865 and 1870, France withdrew from Mexico, Russia sold Alaska to the United States, and Britain proclaimed the new state of Canada. British workers demanded more voting rights, Spain toppled Queen Isabella II and ended slavery in its Caribbean colonies, Cubans rose against Spanish rule, France overthrew Napoleon III, and the kingdom of Pope Pius IX fell before the Italian Risorgimento. Some European liberals, including Victor Hugo and Giuseppe Mazzini, even called for a “United States of Europe.” Yet for all its achievements and optimism, this “new birth of freedom” was short-lived. By the 1890s, Reconstruction had been undone in the United States and abroad and America had become an exclusionary democracy based on white supremacy—and a very different kind of model to the world.

At home and abroad, America’s Reconstruction was, as W.E.B. Du Bois wrote, “the greatest and most important step toward world democracy of all men of all races ever taken in the modern world.” The Age of Reconstruction is a bracing history of a remarkable period when democracy, having survived the great test of the Civil War, was ascendant around the Atlantic world.