C. Edward Skeen

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The year 1816 found America on the cusp of political, social,cultural, and economic modernity. Celebrating its fortieth year of independence, the country’s sense of self was maturing. Americans, who had emerged from the War of 1812 with their political systems intact, embraced new opportunities. For the first time, citizens viewed themselves not as members of a loose coalition of states but as part of a larger union. This optimism was colored, however, by bizarre weather. Periods of extreme cold and severe drought swept the northern states and the upper south throughout 1816, which was sometimes referred to as “The Year Without a Summer." Faced with thirty-degree summer temperatures, many farmers migrated west in search of better weather and more fertile farmlands. In 1816, historian C. Edward Skeen illuminates this unique year of national transition. Politically, the “era of good feelings" allowed Congress to devise programs that fostered prosperity. Social reform movements flourished. This election year found the Federalist party in its death throes, seeking cooperation with the nationalistic forces of the Republican party. Movement west, maturation of political parties, and increasingly contentious debates over such issues as slavery characterized this pivotal year. 1816 marked a watershed in American history. This provocative book vividly highlights the stresses that threatened to pull the nation apart and the bonds that ultimately held it together.

"Suggests that 1816 was the pivotal year in the political life of the US. . . . Recommended."—Choice

"The benefits of a focused approach are most notable in the massive detail of Skeen's discussion."—Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"Skeen has done prodigious research in a wealth of primary materials and his entire book benefits greatly as a result."—American Historical Review

"Reveals a sense of the fragility of the American experiment following the sobering experience of invasion-in the War of 1812-heightened by the bizarre weather of this 'year without a summer.'"—Boston Globe

"1816 is certainly a crucial year in the too-often-neglected decade or so before the emergence of the second party system."—Journal of American History

"Skeen makes the case for 1816 as an important year in the development of the American nation. This well-written and -researched work is recommended."—Library Journal

"An impressive exposition of political culture in the early republic."—McCormick (SC) Messenger

"Skeen narrates the major events of [the era's] opening 12 months with great skill...with clarity and verve."—Publisher's Weekly

"A very impressive exposition of political culture in the early republic."—Andrew Burstein

"Few texts successfully correlate nationalism, state authority and market economy as powerfully as Skeen's 1816. Skeen provides readers of American history with an in-depth study of why 1816 is the definitive year in United States culture."—Cercles

"Well conceived and well executed."—Donald Hickey

"Readers will discover a delightful rendering of at least some of what worried American people at the dawn of the nation's second generation."—Indiana Magazine of History

"Serves as a reminder that the history of consensus should not be entirely buried as scholars pursue their well-honed impulses to dramatize social, cultural, and political conflict."—Journal of Southern History

"Skeen deftly considers a broad range of changes looming for the American republic, which either took root or flowered in this year. . . . Indispensable for teachers of American history hoping to lead their own students through this period of transition."—Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






1816, War of 1812, American national characteristics


Political History

1816: America Rising
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