Monday, May 10, 2021

Booknotes: A Short History of Charleston, Revised and Expanded Edition

New Arrival:
A Short History of Charleston, Revised and Expanded Edition by Robert N. Rosen (USC Press, 2021).

Originally published in 1982 and intended to be both informative and entertaining, Robert Rosen's A Short History of Charleston quickly became a popular overview of the topic. It remains widely recommended as the standard introductory city history and a useful tool for prospective visitors.

From the description: "Beginning with the founding of colonial Charles Town and ending three hundred and fifty years later in the present day, Robert Rosen's fast-paced narrative takes the reader on a journey through the city's complicated history as a port to English settlers, a bloodstained battlefield, and a picturesque vacation mecca. Packed with anecdotes and enlivened by passages from diaries and letters, A Short History of Charleston recounts in vivid detail the port city's development from an outpost of the British Empire to a bustling, modern city."

The volume has been released in several editions over the years. The first edition was published by Lexicos in 1982 and that was followed by a 1992 revised second edition from Peninsula Press and the first University of South Carolina Press edition in 1997. Incorporating into its narrative the past four decades of the city's history is this new 2021 revised and expanded edition from USC Press. It "includes a new final chapter on the decades since Joseph Riley was first elected mayor in 1975 through its rapid development in geographic size, population, and cultural importance. Rosen contemplates both the city's triumphs and its challenges, allowing readers to consider how Charleston's past has shaped its present and will continue to shape its future."

The volume is heavily illustrated with photographs, drawings, and maps, most of which are placed in page sidebars that also contain additional anecdotes, commentary, and biographical notes supplementary to the main text. As is the case with many books of this type intended for a popular readership, the text is not annotated. However, there is a selection of sources included at the rear of the book.

Civil War-era coverage is spread among three of the book's ten chapters. It is part of a general treatment of Charleston as the "capital" of southern slavery, and there are standalone chapters discussing the Civil War and Reconstruction periods of the city's history.

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