Profile profile for GrinspanJ
Ph.D. University of Virginia, History, 2013
M.A. University of Virginia, History, 2008
B.A. Sarah Lawrence College, 2006
I study how politics and popular culture grew up together in America. In the 1800s, American political campaigns blended government and entertainment, youth culture and saloon culture, crime and comedy and so much else. The result was a mixing of the personal and the political, creating a bold experiment in self-government and thrilling human stories.
My first book, The Virgin Vote: How Young Americans Made Democracy Social, Politics Personal, and Voting Popular in the Nineteenth Century (University of North Carolina, 2016), uncovered the forgotten era when young men and women were the most engaged demographic in American politics. Millions of children, youths, and young adults forced their way into public life, while their democracy forced its way into their personal lives.
My new book, The Age of Acrimony: How Americans Fought to Fix Their Democracy, 1865 – 1915 traces Americans’ struggle with their fascinating, frustrating political system in the decades after the Civil War. American democracy was never louder, closer, or more culturally central, drawing the highest voter turnouts in history and recruiting millions to tribal partisanship. Many joined in vibrant public campaigns, while others argued that self-government itself had failed. At the century’s end, reformers tamed the era’s wild politics, restraining their savage system by trading participation for civility.
To tell this story, The Age of Acrimony traces a fascinating father-daughter dynasty: the radical congressman William “Pig Iron” Kelley and Florence, a fiery intellectual who defied him and became a leader of her own Progressive movement. Through Will and Florie’s personal struggles – and friendships and feuds with lively characters – The Age of Acrimony traces a narrative of American democracy in crisis and its capacity for reform. The Age of Acrimony will be published by Bloomsbury Publishing in March 2021.
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