Like the other seven volumes in this series, this one is a massive rendering of a relatively narrow period of time (here,...


REDEEMING THE TIME: A People's History of the 1920's and The New Deal

Like the other seven volumes in this series, this one is a massive rendering of a relatively narrow period of time (here, between 1922 and 1941). Although his story ends in 1941, Smith, the award-winning historian, insists that this is the final volume of his People's History. Late in the volume, Smith hints at his purpose when he writes of his ambition ""to lead the reader into a larger and more spacious realm than any that we can dwell in simply as contemporaries."" In that regard, he hopes that his series will be perceived as ""philosophy leaching by examples."" Indeed, there are plenty of examples, scattered throughout these 1,100 pages plus. No account of this era would be complete without attention to the prevailing tension between the intellectuals and the repressive, puritanal, suspicious sector of the society. Smith gives this much play, attending to it in fully eight of his 48 chapters. He strikes an amusing note over the plight of American artists and intellectuals fleeing to Europe to escape the machine-loving capitalists only to find their continental counterparts drooling over the power and beauty of the machine. Smith practices history from the safety of the straddled fence. For example, in his chapter on Sacco and Vanzetti, he distances himself from any judgment of guilt or innocence, seeing the case strictly in its symbolic role and for its impact on American intellectuals. Amazingly, for such a large history of a short period, he treats the Lindbergh baby kidnapping and trial in a couple of sentences, even though some of the same issues of ""foreign influence"" were as incumbent as in the Massachusetts case. Of course, Franklin Roosevelt is the towering figure looming in this volume, and Smith never lets the reader forget it. In his account of the Democratic Conventions of 1924 and 1928, Smith presents them as basically FDR's practice-grounds. He reminds us of how, after 90 some ballots in 1924, FDR might have easily had the nomination but for Louis Howe's strict adherence to a timetable for success. Smith sees Roosevelt as having successfully engineered a truce in the war between capital and labor that was the dominant theme of his previous volume (America Enters the World). In Smith's own words, an ""old-fashioned, archaic biographical history."" But it works.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 1986


Page Count: -

Publisher: McGraw-Hill

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986