Synopses & Reviews
Beginning in 1945, America rocketed through a quarter-century of extraordinary economic growth, experiencing an amazing boom that soared to unimaginable heights in the 1960s. At one point, in the late 1940s, American workers produced 57 percent of the planet's steel, 62 percent of the oil, 80 percent of the automobiles. The U.S. then had three-fourths of the world's gold supplies. English Prime Minister Edward Heath later said that the United States in the post-War era enjoyed "the greatest prosperity the world has ever known." It was a boom that produced a national euphoria, a buoyant time of grand expectations and an unprecedented faith in our government, in our leaders, and in the American dream--an optimistic spirit which would be shaken by events in the '60s and '70s, and particularly by the Vietnam War.
Now, in Grand Expectations, James T. Patterson has written a highly readable and balanced work that weaves the major political, cultural, and economic events of the period into a superb portrait of America from 1945 through Watergate. Here is an era teeming with memorable events--from the bloody campaigns in Korea and the bitterness surrounding McCarthyism to the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, to the Vietnam War, Watergate, and Nixon's resignation. Patterson excels at portraying the amazing growth after World War II--the great building boom epitomized by Levittown (the largest such development in history) and the baby boom (which exploded literally nine months after V-J Day)--as well as the resultant buoyancy of spirit reflected in everything from streamlined toasters, to big, flashy cars, to the soaring, butterfly roof of TWA's airline terminal in New York. And he shows how this upbeat, can-do mood spurred grander and grander expectations as the era progressed.
Of course, not all Americans shared in this economic growth, and an important thread running through the book is an informed and gripping depiction of the civil rights movement--from the electrifying Brown v. Board of Education decision, to the violent confrontations in Little Rock, Birmingham, and Selma, to the landmark civil rights acts of 1964 and 1965. Patterson also shows how the Vietnam War--which provoked LBJ's growing credibility gap, vast defense spending that dangerously unsettled the economy, and increasingly angry protests--and a growing rights revolution (including demands by women, Hispanics, the poor, Native Americans, and gays) triggered a backlash that widened hidden rifts in our society, rifts that divided along racial, class, and generational lines. And by Nixon's resignation, we find a national mood in stark contrast to the grand expectations of ten years earlier, one in which faith in our leaders and in the attainability of the American dream was becoming shaken.
The Oxford History of the United States
The Oxford History of the United States is the most respected multi-volume history of our nation. The series includes three Pulitzer Prize winners, a New York Times bestseller, and winners of the Bancroft and Parkman Prizes. The Atlantic Monthly has praised it as "the most distinguished series in American historical scholarship," a series that "synthesizes a generation's worth of historical inquiry and knowledge into one literally state-of-the-art book." Conceived under the general editorship of C. Vann Woodward and Richard Hofstadter, and now under the editorship of David M. Kennedy, this renowned series blends social, political, economic, cultural, diplomatic, and military history into coherent and vividly written narrative.
"Lucid, engrossing, and provocative, Grand Expectations
brilliantly captures America from World War II to Watergate. If you can read only one book about the United States between World War II and Watergate, choose this one. Even when you disagree with it, you will admire and enjoy it."--Laura Kalman, Professor of History, University of California, Santa Barbara
"James Patterson is one of America's most eminent historians of modern America, and this sweeping synthesis of our recent past displays his great gifts as a scholar and writer in full measure. Grand Expectations is a bold and engaging narrative. It also proposes a series of challenging and at times surprising interpretations of the postwar era."--Alan Brinkley, Professor of History, Columbia University
"Grand Expectations fulfills all the requirements for an important work of history--broad learning expressed in lucid prose and punctuated by thoughtful interpretations. What's more, it's also a good read."--John Morton Blum, Department of History, Yale University
"Patterson offers us a magisterial overview of American public life from the end of World War II to the close of the Nixon era. His readable, even fast-paced account is solidly grounded in scholarship, and frequently displays a strking originality. There is no better guide to the history of these years."--Otis L. Graham, Jr., Professor of History Emeritus, University of California, Santa Barbara
"Grand Expectations is simply the best single book about the unique and fascinating period of American history between 1945-1974. Patterson's fast-paced narrative is filled with vivid portraits, interesting facts, illuminating insights, and thoughtful and judicious commentary. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the roots of America's contemporary discontent."--Steven M. Gillon, University Lecturer in American History, Oxford University
"The three decades following World War II constituted a unique moment in American history, a triumphal and confident age against which, for better or worse, we now judge our own era. In Grand Expectations, James Patterson vividly renders the complex energies and abundant ironies of those years. He brilliantly illuminates the promises and perils of postwar prosperity, the achievements and agonies of the 'rights revolution,' and the costs and calamities of the Cold War, including Vietnam. Clear, colorful, comprehensive, and studded with provocative judgements, Grand Expectations is a grand history that richly rewards the specialist and the general reader alike."--David M. Kennedy, Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History, Stanford University
"A tour de force from the last murmurings of the New Deal through the last mutterings over Watergate."--The Wall Street Journal
"Mr. Patterson's overall achievement is compelling."--The Economist
"A spirited, sprawling narrative of American life."--The New York Times Book Review
"One can hardly imagine a better overview of American life during the Cold War, the struggle for civil rights, and the debacle of Vietnam."--The Washington Post Book World
"A magisterial history....A fair, judicious, and yet decisive synthesis."--Atlantic Monthly
A highly readable and balanced work that weaves the major political, cultural, and economic events of the period into a superb portrait of America from 1945 through Watergate, "Grand Expectations" offers a brilliant summation of the years which created the America we know today. 48 illustrations. 4 maps.
About the Author
About the Author -
Charles Fountain is Assistant Professor of Journalism at Northeastern University. A contributor to magazines and newspapers such as The Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, and Columbia Journalism Review, he is the author of Another Man's Poison: The Life and Writing of Columnist George Frazier.