Boats Against the Current: American Culture Between Revolution and Modernity, 1820-1860

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Rowman & Littlefield, 2002 - History - 352 pages
Boats Against the Current provides a fascinating account of how American culture emerged from the sheltered, elitist world of the eighteenth century into the dynamic, turbulent civilization that reached full bloom after the Civil War. The antebellum years were times of flux and change, years of a society rushing into the western wilds, muscular and ambitious, yet haunted by uncertainty about its future and its past. Renowned scholar Lewis Perry begins his study with a fresh look at Andrew Jackson--vividly recreating a time when Americans, feeling their ties to the past disintegrating, fostered a new fascination with history. Then Perry introduces us to the observations of such articulate foreign travelers as Alexis de Tocqueville and Fredrika Bremer. He deftly weaves together these writers' perspectives to provide a fascinating look at our emergent nation. Here, too, are the women of the cities and frontier, the peddlers, preachers, and showmen, along with such writers as Hawthorne, Emerson, Whittier, and Parker. Perry brings these personalities and writings together to show us how early nineteenth century America saw itself, in both its promise and its fears. Now available for the first time in paperback, Boats Against the Current offers a brilliant portrait of a society in the midst of change, expansion, and reflection about its own future and past. Written by one of our leading intellectual historians, it makes a major contribution to our understanding of the emergence of modern American culture.
 

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BOATS AGAINST THE CURRENT: Revolution and Modernity, 1820-1860

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A woolly, meandering analysis of commercial, rootless America in the Age of Jackson. Perry (History/Vanderbilt University) has homed in on narrower, more easily defined turf here than in his ... Read full review

Boats against the current: American culture between revolution and modernity, 1820-1860

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Traditionally, historians have claimed that modern American history starts in the early 20th century, but Perry (history, Vanderbilt) argues that elements of modernism began in the Age of Jackson. By ... Read full review

Contents

Contrasts
13
A New Way of Life
21
The Hero and His Roles
25
A Vagabonds Vision of Civilization
39
Looking for Connections
47
Choosing a Past
55
Holding On to History
63
AntiHistory
71
City of Unwork
155
Excursion
161
Specimens of Equivoke
167
On the Road
173
Confidence and Sincerity
189
Emerson on the World of Shows
199
Against the Current
215
A Step toward Modernity
227

Ruins and Stumps
81
Tocqueville Wilderness and Civilization
89
Brenter Home and Citizenship
105
The Opening of the American Mind
125
Ambiguous Argonaut
141
The Experience of Change
243
Retelling the Story
265
Notes
271
Index
323
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About the author (2002)

Lewis Perry is professor of history at Saint Louis University.

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