History professor publishes new book on the Civil War and Reconstruction

July 24, 2012

For many the Civil War conjures up images of generals and soldiers marching onto battlefields with poised muskets, the dull roar of cannons, and the smell of gunpowder. However, Richard Schneriov and John Jentz paint a different view of the impact the Civil War had on our country's history against the canvas of Chicago during the mid-nineteenth century.

The book, "Chicago in the Age of Capital: Class ,Politics and Democracy during the Civil War and Reconstruction," argues that civil war's impact extended beyond that of military conquests in the South to social, political and democratic change in the North.

Following the Civil War capitalism began to emerge as a dominant mode of production within the United States, Schneriov and Jentz argue. Second, the north underwent a revolutionary upheaval comparable to that of the one in the South, as newly formed social movements began to find their footing within U.S. politics. These movements had a profound impact on the nation's democratic process. Third, within the U.S. class awareness began to emerge among the capitalist and labor classes and reshape politics.

Schneriov said the book was written mainly for other academics and graduate students but some advanced undergraduates may be interested in the book.

"People who know a lot about the Civil War era and are interested in the issues of that era may want to read it to broaden their understanding," Schneriov said. "A lot of people are interested in the military aspects of the Civil War and Reconstruction. This [the book] talks about the social, political and economic aspects."

Research on the book began in 1986, two years after Schneriov received his Ph.D. at the Northern Illinois University. Schneriov said the authors placed the book on hold before picking it up again in 2004.

Jentz and Schneriov worked together closely at the The Newberry Research Library in Chicago. The authors used data from old newspapers, raw census data and other published manuscripts and works at the time to compile a coherent story in support of their arguments.

Schneirov has published three other books, edited three collections, and is a member of the editorial boards of three journals. In 1998, Schneriov's book "Labor and Urban Politics: Class Conflict and the Origins of Modern Liberalism in Chicago, 1864-97" was awarded the Urban History Association's prize for Best Book in North American Urban History. Schneirov has taught history at Indiana State University since 1989.

Writer: Ernest Rollins, Indiana State University, media relations assistant, at 812-237-3773