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Other titles in the Very Short Introductions series:
American History (Very Short Introductions)by Paul S. Boyer
Synopses & Reviews
This brief history of America will span the earliest migrations to the present, reflecting Paul S. Boyer's interests in social, intellectual, and cultural history, including popular culture and religion. It will reflect his personal view of American history, in which a sense of paradox and irony loom large. While noting positive achievements--political, economic, social, and cultural--he will also discuss the United States's failures to live up to its oft-stated ideals; although America has figured in the world's imagination (and its own self-image) as a "land of opportunity" offering "liberty and justice for all," the reality has often fallen short.
For example, the establishment of the North American colonies had very different meanings for colonists from the British Isles and Europe, for Native peoples, and for enslaved Africans brought against their will. The late nineteenth century saw not only impressive industrial expansion and the creation of vast fortunes but also appalling conditions in urban-immigrant slums and a degraded, exploited labor force. The twentieth-century emergence of a suburban society of consumer abundance meant a better life for many and laid the groundwork for impressive cultural creativity, yet left behind crime-ridden inner cities and spawned a stultifying mass culture. The immigrants who have renewed and revitalized the nation have also stirred hostility and resentment. While American popular culture has demonstrated global appeal, the projection of U.S. military power abroad, from the Philippines early in the twentieth century to Iraq early in the twenty-first, has sometimes failed in its purpose and damaged the nation's international standing. Although this book will not be a muckraking exposï¿½ or anachronistic moral tract, neither will it be a celebratory panegyric or a bland recital of facts.
In a miracle of concision, Paul S. Boyer provides a wide-ranging and authoritative history of America, capturing in a compact space the full story of our nation. Ranging from the earliest Native American settlers to the presidency of Barack Obama, this Very Short Introduction offers an illuminating account of politics, diplomacy, and war as well as the full spectrum of social, cultural, and scientific developments that shaped our country.
Here is a masterful picture of America's achievements and failures, large-scale socio-historical forces, and pivotal events. Boyer sheds light on the colonial era, the Revolution and the birth of the new nation; slavery and the Civil War; Reconstruction and the Gilded Age; the Progressive era, the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression; the two world wars and the Cold War that followed; right up to the tragedy of 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the epoch-making election of Barack Obama. Certain broad trends shape much of the narrative--immigration, urbanization, slavery, continental expansion, the global projection of U.S. power, the centrality of religion, the progression from an agrarian to an industrial to a post-industrial economic order. Yet in underscoring such large themes, Boyer also highlights the diversity of the American experience, the importance of individual actors, and the crucial role of race, ethnicity, gender, and social class in shaping the contours of specific groups within the nation's larger tapestry. And along the way, he touches upon the cultural milestones of American history, from Tom Paine's The Crisis to Allen Ginsberg's Howl.
American History: A Very Short Introduction is a panoramic history of the United States, one that covers virtually every topic of importance--and yet can be read in a single day.
About the Author
Merle Curti Professor of History Emeritus and former director, Institute for Research in the Humanities, University of Wisconsin-Madison; editor in chief, Oxford Companion to United States History (2001); co-author, Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft (with Stephen Nissenbaum, 1974); author, By the Bomb's Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age (1985), et al.
Table of Contents
List of illustrations
Chapter 1: Beginnings: Prehistory to 1763
Chapter 2: 1763-1789: Revolution, constitution, a new nation
Chapter 3: 1789-1850: The promise and perils of nationhood
Chapter 4: 1850-1865: Slavery and civil war
Chapter 5: 1866-1899: Industrialization and its consequences
Chapter 6: 1900-1920: Reform and war
Chapter 7: 1920-1945: From conflict to global power
Chapter 8: 1945-1968: Affluence and social unrest
Chapter 9: To the present
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