Important Books on American History through 1877



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Important Books on American History through 1877
The most important books are starred (*); the others are recommended. The last category, “Race Theory,” is only included for those students who are either doing a specialty field with me on race and slavery or plan to write a dissertation in which race theory figures prominently. The lists encompass 76 starred books exclusive of race theory.
Colonial/Revolutionary (17*)
*Bailyn, Bernard. The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution

*Bonomi, Patricia U. Under the Cope of Heaven: Religion, Society, and Politics in Colonial America

*Breen, T. H. The Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence, 2004.

*Brown, Kathleen M. Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, & Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia

Butler, Jon. Becoming America: The Revolution before 1776

Doll, Peter M. Revolution, Religion, and National Identity: Imperial Anglicanism in British North America, 1745-1795.

*Ellis, Joseph J. Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.

Games, Alison. Migration and the Origins of the English Atlantic World, 1999.

*Greene, Jack P. Pursuits of Happiness: The Social Development of Early Modern British Colonies and the Formation of American Culture, 1988.

*Griffin, Patrick. American Leviathan: Empire, Nation, and Revolutionary Frontier

Gross, Robert. The Minutemen and Their World

*Hall, David D. Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment, 1989

*Henretta, James, The Origins of American Capitalism

Hinderaker, Eric. At the Edge of Empire: The Backcountry in British North America

Isaac, Rhys. The Transformation of Virginia, 1740-1790, 1982.

*Katz, Stanley N, John M. Murrin, Douglas Greenberg. Colonial America : Essays in Politics and Social Development

*Kerber, Linda K. Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America, 1980

*Kidd, Thomas S. The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America, 2007.

Lambert, Frank E. Inventing the “Great Awakening, 1999.

*Lamoreaux, Naomi "Rethinking the Transition to Capitalism in the Early American Northeast"

Lepore, Jill. The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity, 1998

*Morgan, Edmund S. American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia, 1975.

*Morgan, Edmund S. The Puritan Dilemma; The Story of John Winthrop, 1958.

Nash, Gary B. The Unknown American Revolution: The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America.

Noll, Mark A. The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield and the Wesleys.

*Rogers, Daniel T., “Republicanism: the Career of a Concept,” The Journal of American History 1992 vol. 79(1): 11-38

*Wood, Gordon S. The Radicalism of the American Revolution.



Constitutional/Early Republic (11*)
*Appleby, Joyce Oldham. Capitalism and the New Social Order: The Republican Vision of the 1790s. New York: New York University Press, 1984.

Aron, Stephen. How the West Was Lost: The Transformation of Kentucky from Daniel Boone to Henry Clay. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

*Banning, Lance. Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle, 2004.

*Cornell, Saul. The Other Founders: Anti-Federalism & the Dissenting Tradition in America, 1788-1828.



* Klein, Milton M., Richard D. Brown, John B. Hench. The Republican Synthesis Revisited : Essays in Honor of George Athan Billias, 1992.

Middleton, Simon and Billy G. Smith, Class Matters: Early North America and the Atlantic World

Rakove, Jack. Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution

*Rockman, Seth. Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore, 2009

*Roediger, David R. The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class, 1991.

Tomlins, Christopher L. Law, Labor, and Ideology in the Early American Republic

*Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher. A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on her Diary, 1785-1812

*Waldstreicher, David. In the Midst of Perpetual Fetes: The Making of American Nationalism, 1776-1820

Wallace, Anthony F. C. Jefferson and the Indians: The Tragic Fate of the First Americans, 1999

Wolf, Eva Sheppard. Race and Liberty in the New Nation: Emancipation in Virginia from the Revolution to Nat Turner’s Rebellion, 2006

*York, Neil, ed. Build a More Perfect Union: Six Essays on the Constitution, 1988

Wallace, Anthony F. C. Rockdale: The Growth of an American Village in the Early Industrial Revolution, 1980

*Wood, Gordon The Creation of the American Republic [starts with Revolution]

*Zagarri, Rosemarie. Revolutionary Backlash: Women and Politics in the Early American Republic.


Jacksonian/Antebellum/Civil War (18*)
Altschuler, Glenn C., and Stuart M. Blumin. Rude Republic: Americans and Their Politics in the Nineteenth Century. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000.

*Anbinder, Tyler. Nativism and Slavery: The Northern Know Nothings and the Politics of the 1850s

Cooper, William J., Jr. Liberty and Slavery: Southern Politics to 1860, 1983.

Fanuzzi, Robert. Abolition’s Public Sphere

*Fehrenbacher, Don E. and Ward M. McAfee. The Slaveholding Republic: An Account of the United States Government's Relations to Slavery, 2001.

*Foner, Eric. Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men

Fox-Genovese, Elizabeth, and Eugene D. Genovese. The Mind of the Master Class: History and Faith in the Southern Slaveholders' Worldview, 2005.

*Goodman, Paul. Of One Blood: Abolitionism and the Origins of Racial Equality

*Holt, Michael. The Political Crises of the 1850s

Horowitz-Leftkowitz, Helen. Rereading Sex: Battles Over Sexual Knowledge and Suppression in Nineteenth-Century America, 2002

*Howe, Daniel Walker. What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 2008.

*Isenberg, Nancy. Sex and Citizenship in Antebellum America

Kelly, Catherine E. In the New England Fashion: Reshaping Women's Lives in the Nineteenth Century, 1999.

*Laurie, Bruce. Beyond Garrison: Antislavery and Social Reform

Lott, Eric. Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class, 1993

Mintz, Steven. Moralists and Modernizers: America's Pre-Civil War Reformers, 1995.

O’Brien, Michael. Conjectures of Order: Intellectual Life and the American South, 1810-1860 [This is a huge, two-volume set—read the intro in Vol. 1, then look at what interests you.]

*Oakes, James. The Ruling Race: A History of American Slaveholders, 1982

*Oakes, James. Slavery and Freedom: An Interpretation of the Old South, 1990.

*Pierson, Michael D. Free Hearts and Free Homes: Gender and American Antislavery Politics, 2003.

*Remini, Robert V. Andrew Jackson and His Indian Wars, 2001

*Ryan, Mary P. Civic Wars: Democracy and Public Life in the American City During the Nineteenth Century, 1997.

*Sellers, Charles Grier. The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815-1846, 1991.

*Stansell, Christine. City of Women: Sex and Class in New York, 1789-1860, 1986

Stauffer, John. The Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race, 2002.

*Stewart, James Brewer, Holy Warriors: The Abolitionists and American Slavery

Walters, Ronald. American Reformers, 1815-1860

*Wilentz, Sean. Chants Democratic: New York City and the Rise of the American Working Class, 1788-1850

*Wilentz, Sean. The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln, 2005.
Civil War/ Reconstruction (16, 9*)
*Blight, David W. Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, 2001

Blum, Edward J. Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism 1865-1898

*Boritt, Gabor, ed. Why the Civil War Came

*Boritt, Gabor. ed. Why the Confederacy Lost

*Faust, Drew Gilpin. Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War, 1996.

*Foner, Eric. Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877

*Freehling, William, The Road to Disunion

Freehling, William W. The South Vs. the South: How Anti-Confederate Southerners Shaped the Course of the Civil War, 2001.

Goen, C. C. Broken Churches, Broken Nation: Denominational Schisms and the Coming of the American Civil War, 1985.

*McPherson, James. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era

McPherson, James. Ordeal by Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction, 1982 [military and political course of the war]

Morrison, Michael A. Slavery and the American West: The Eclipse of Manifest Destiny and the Coming of the Civil War, 1997

*Rose, Willie Lee. Rehearsal for Reconstruction: The Port Royal Experiment, 1976

Savage, Kirk. Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth Century America

Stout, Harry S. Upon the Altar of the Nation: A Moral History of the Civil War

*Vorenberg, Michael. Final Freedom


Studies Encompassing Broader Time Periods (8*)
Ayers, Edward L. and Peter S. Onuf, ed. All over the Map: Rethinking American Regions, 1996.

*Bushman, Richard. The Refinement of America

Couvares, Francis G., Martha Saxton, Gerald N. Grob, and George Athan Billias, Interpretations of American History, Vol. 1

*Formisano, Ronald P. For the People: American Popular Movements from the Revolution to the 1850s, 2008

*Heyrman, Christine Leigh. Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt, 1997

*Holifield, E. Brooks. Theology in America: Christian Thought from the Age of the Puritans to the Civil War, 2003

*Rothenberg, Winifred Barr. From Marketplaces to a Market Economy: The Transformation of Rural Massachusetts, 1750-1850, 1992

*Ruiz, Vicki and Ellen Dubois, Unequal Sisters: A Multicultural Reader in U.S. Women’s History, 1994

Saxton, Alexander. The Rise and Fall of the White Republic

*Wyatt-Brown, Bertram. The Shaping of Southern Culture: Honor, Grace, and War, 1760s-1890s, 2001.

Wolf, Eva Sheppard. Race and Liberty in the New Nation: Emancipation in Virginia from the Revolution to Nat Turner’s Rebellion, 2006

*Wood, Gordon S. The Purpose of the Past [a collection of reviews of important works, including some listed in the first two categories here—useful because he often relates the historiography of the argument being reviewed]


Focus on Native Americans (4*)
Anderson, William L., Ed. Cherokee Removal: Before and After. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1991.

*Axtell, James. Natives and Newcomers: The Cultural Origins of North America, 2001

*Dowd, Gregory Evans. A Spirited Resistance: The North American Indian Struggle for Unity, 1745-1815. 1992.

Gutiérrez, Ramón A. When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away: Marriage, Sexuality, and Power in New Mexico, 1500-1846, 1991.

*Newell, Margaret Ellen. “The Changing Nature of Indian Slavery in New England, 1670-1720,” in Reinterpreting New England Indians and the Colonial Experience, ed. Neal Salisbury and Colin Calloway [And the rest of the articles are excellent, too]

Perdue, Theda. Cherokee Women, Gender and Culture Change, 1700 – 1835, 1998.

Plane, Ann Marie. Colonial Intimacies: Indian Marriage in Early New England

*Richter, Daniel K. Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America, 2001

White, Richard. The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815, 1991.

Yarbrough, Fay. Race and the Cherokee Nation: Sovereignty in the Nineteenth Century, 2008


Focus on African Americans (8*)
Berlin, Ira. Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North

*Berlin, Ira. Generations of Captivity

Blassingame, John. The Slave Community

Carretta, Vincent. Equiano the African

Davis, David Brion. Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World

*Egerton, Douglas. Death or Liberty: African Americans and Revolutionary America

Elkins, Stanley M. Slavery: A Problem in American Institutional and Intellectual Life.

*Frey, Sylvia and Betty Wood, Come Shouting to Zion: African American Protestantism in the American South and British Caribbean to 1830.

Fogel, Robert William, and Stanley L. Engerman. Time on the Cross; The Economics of American Negro Slavery, 1974.

Genovese, Eugene D. Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made.

Morgan, Jennifer. Laboring Women

Mullin, Gerald, Flight and Rebellion: Slave Resistance in Eighteenth-Century Virginia

*Rael, Patrick. Black Identity and Black Protest in the Antebellum North

Raboteau, Albert J. Slave Religion: The "Invisible Institution" in the Antebellum South, 1978.

Rawick, George, From Sundown to Sunup

*Rediker, Marcus. The Slave Ship: A Human History, 2007

*Schwartz, Marie Jenkins. Born in Bondage: Growing Up Enslaved in the Antebellum South, 2000.

*Smallwood, Stephanie. Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora

Stampp, Kenneth M. The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South, 1956.

*White, Deborah G. Ar'n't I a Woman?: Female Slaves in the Plantation South, 1985.

Wood, Peter H. Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion, 1974.
Asians (2*)
*Lee, Robert G. Orientals : Asian Americans in Popular Culture

*Saxton, Alexander. Indispensable Enemy: Labor and the Anti-Chinese Movement in America


Race Theory [some dealing with much broader time periods] (20*)
“ Whiteness Forum,” Journal of American History, Vol. 74, No. 4 (March 1987), 981-996.

*Allen, Theodore, The Invention of the White Race, Vol. I and II

*Back, Les and John Solomos, Theories of Race and Racism: A Reader, 2000

*Bay, Mia. The White Image in the Black Mind

Campbell, James T., Matthew Pratt Guterl, and Robert G. Lee, eds. Race, Nation, and Empire in American History

*Chambers, Iain and Lidia Curti, The Post-Colonial Question: Common Skies, Divided Horizons, 1996

Chaplin, Joyce E. Subject Matter: Technology, The Body, and Science on the Anglo-American Frontier, 1500-1676, 2001

*Dain, Bruce. A Hideous Monster of the Mind: American Race Theory in the Early Republic

Fredrickson, George. Racism: A Short History

*Fredrickson, George. The Black Image in the White Mind

Gelder, Ken and Sarah Thornton, The Subcultures Reader, 1997

*Gould, Stephen J. The Mismeasure of Man, 1981

*Gross, Ariela, What Blood Won’t Tell: A History of Race on Trial in America

*Hale, Grace, Making Whiteness, 1998

Hartigan, John Jr. Racial Situations: Class Predicaments of Whiteness in Detroit

Horsman, Reginald. Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism, 1981.

Ignatiev, Noel, How the Irish Became White

*Jacobson, Matthew Frye. Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race, 1998

*Jordan, Winthrop D. White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812, 1968.

*Kolchin, Peter. "Whiteness Studies: The New History of Race in America,"

Lemire, Elise, Miscegenation

Lubiano, Wahneema, The House that Race Built: Black Americans, U.S. Terrain, 1997

*Melish, Joanne Pope. Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and ‘Race’ in New England,1780-1860

Morrison, Michael A. and James Brewer Stewart, eds. Race and the Early Republic: Racial Consciousness and Nation-Building in the Early Republic

*Morrison, Toni, Playing in the Dark

Omi, Michael and Howard Winant, Racial Formation in the United States

*Roediger, David. The Wages of Whiteness

*Shoemaker, Nancy. A Strange Likeness

*Smedley, Audrey. Race in North America

Sollors, Werner. Interracialism: Black-White Intermarriage in American History, Literature, and Law, 2000.

*Stanton, William. The Leopard’s Spots: Scientific Attitudes Toward Race in America, 1815-1859

*Sweet, John Wood. Bodies Politic: Negotiating Race in the American North, 1730-1830



*Wade, Peter. Race and Ethnicity in Latin America – Chap. 1, “The Meaning of Race and Ethnicity”


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