Arming America by Michael A. Bellesiles
The Origins of a National Gun Culture

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How and when did Americans develop their obsession with guns? Is gun-related violence so deeply embedded in American historical experience as to be immutable? The accepted answers to these questions are "mythology," says Michael A. Bellesiles.

Basing his arguments on sound and prodigious research, Bellesiles makes it clear that gun ownership was the exception--even on the frontier--until the age of industrialization. In Colonial America the average citizen had virtually no access to or training in the use of firearms, and the few guns that did exist were kept under strict control. No guns were made in America until after the Revolution, and there were few gunsmiths to keep them in repair.

Bellesiles shows that the U.S. government, almost from its inception, worked to arm its citizens, but it met only public indifference and resistance until the 1850s, when technological advances--such as repeating revolvers with self-contained bullets--contributed to a surge in gun manufacturing. Finally, we see how the soaring gun production engendered by the Civil War, and the decision to allow soldiers to keep their weapons at the end of the conflict, transformed the gun from a seldom-needed tool to a perceived necessity--opposing ideas that are still at the center of the fight for and against gun control today.

Michael A. Bellesiles's research set off a chain of passionate reaction after its publication in the Journal of American History in 1996, and Arming America is certain to be one of the most controversial and widely read books on the subject.

About Michael A. Bellesiles

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Michael A. Bellesiles is Associate Professor of History at Emory University & Director of Emory's Center for the Study of Violence. He is the author of "Revolutionary Outlaws: Ethan Allen & the Struggle for Independence on the Early American Frontier," & of numerous articles & reviews. He lives in Atlanta.
Published September 5, 2000 by Alfred A. Knopf/Random House. 624 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Computers & Technology, Science & Math, Crafts, Hobbies & Home, Education & Reference, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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In the 1850s the creative advertising of Samuel Colt and the emergence of hunting magazines convinced people that "they needed guns in order to be real Americans," and by the 1870s "guns were everywhere in American life."

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Publishers Weekly

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Through examination of ""[l]egal, probate, military and business records, travel accounts, personal letters"" and other primary sources, he painstakingly documents the relative absence of guns before the Civil War--and the rise of the gun culture in its wake, due to an increasingly urban populace...

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Book Reporter

Perhaps the only thing Americans love more than guns themselves is debating the rights surrounding gun ownership.

Jan 20 2011 | Read Full Review of Arming America: The Origins o...

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