Professor Foner's publications have concentrated on the intersections of intellectual, political and social history, and the history of American race relations. His best-known books are: Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War (1970; reissued with new preface 1995) Tom Paine and Revolutionary America (1976); Nothing But Freedom: Emancipation and Its Legacy (1983); Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 (1988) (winner, among other awards, of the Bancroft Prize, Parkman Prize, and Los Angeles Times Book Award; The Reader's Companion to American History (with John A. Garraty, 1991); The Story of American Freedom (1998); Who Owns History? Rethinking the Past in a Changing World (2002); his survey textbook of American history, Give Me Liberty! An American History (2004); The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery (2010) (winner, among other awards, of the Bancroft Prize, Pulitzer Prize for History, and The Lincoln Prize); and Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad, ( 2015) (winner of the American History Book Prize by the New-York Historical Society. His latest book is The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution (2019). His books have been translated into Chinese, Korean, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish.
Eric Foner has also been the co-curator, with Olivia Mahoney, of two prize-winning
exhibitions on American history: A House Divided: America in the Age of Lincoln, which opened at the
Chicago Historical Society in 1990, and America's Reconstruction: People and Politics After the Civil War, which opened
at the Virginia Historical Society in 1995 and traveled to several other
locations. For links to digital versions of these exhibits, see the bottom of this page. He also revised the presentation of American history at the Hall of
Presidents at Disney World, and Meet Mr. Lincoln at Disneyland, and has
served as consultant to several National Parks Service historical sites
and historical museums.
In 2007, a group of Professor Foner's former graduate students published Contested Democracy: Freedom, Race, and Power in American History, edited by Manisha Sinha and Penny Von Eschen, a collection of essays, or "festschrift," in his honor.
Foner's works have been highly praised in scholarly journals and by reviews in periodicals across the political spectrum. In The Nation, Theodore Rosengarten wrote that Reconstruction is "monumental in scope ... a feat of research and synthesis that is not likely to be repeated for a generation." The introduction to a recent collection of essays on the Civil War era refers to Reconstruction as "one of the masterworks of the historical profession." Robert H. Ferrell, in the National Review declared that The Story of American Freedom "approaches brilliance." Of The Fiery Trial, Drew Gilpin Faust of Harvard wrote, "it's a brilliant book by one of the most brilliant historians writing about ninteenth century America." In the Los Angeles Times, Wendy Smith wrote of Gateway to Freedom, "intellectually probing and emotionally resonant, [it] reminds us that history can be as stirring as the most gripping fiction." The Chicago Law Bulletin called The Second Founding "a fantastic book ... a masterpiece."
In a book review, Steven Hahn of New York University wrote of Eric Foner: "Like his mentor Richard Hofstadter, he has had an enormous influence on how other historians, as well as a good cut of the general reading public, have come to think about American history. This is the result of his voluminous scholarship and of his decades as a teacher. Indeed, when one considers the chronological and topical range of Foner's many books and essays--not to mention those of his doctoral students--only Hofstadter, C. Vann Woodward, David Brion Davis, and, in an earlier era, Charles Beard (who was also at Columbia) would seem to be his genuine rivals in impact and accomplishment." An article on the Bloomberg website recently described him as "one of America's greatest historians." On a somewhat different note, the Oklahoma Gazette wrote of a talk by Professor Foner at Oklahoma University, "suffice it to say that his giving a free lecture on OU's campus is just really, incredibly, super cool."
Professor Foner retired from teaching in 2018. During the 2014-15 academic year, his Columbia University course on The Civil War and Reconstruction was made available online, free of charge, via ColumbiaX and EdX. Here are links to the lectures (divided into segments); they can also be found on YouTube::
VIEW SESSION AT ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN HISTORIANS ANNUAL MEETING ON ERIC FONER'S "RECONSTRUCTION AT 25"
© 2005 Eric Foner | wonderwheel