Though plagued by repetition, the book offers persuasive reasoning to support the author’s thesis.

THE LAND OF ENTERPRISE

A BUSINESS HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

A historian makes his case that the story of private enterprise has been undervalued as a window into the history of the United States.

In a summary of American history that is simultaneously chronological and thematic, Waterhouse (History/Univ. of North Carolina; Lobbying America: The Politics of Business from Nixon to NAFTA, 2014) discusses the commercial aspects of slavery, the rise of factories in the U.S., the development of an impersonal corporate structure for business, battles between government regulators and business executives, and the rise and decline of labor unions, among other threads. He expands on the oft-repeated 1925 quotation of President Calvin Coolidge: “The chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world.” Pointedly referring to the 2008 financial crash in the U.S. and around the world, the author argues that the business history of this country has provided cautionary lessons either ignored by or unknown to the general public. Even during the late 1700s, as the Founding Fathers were forging the Constitution, warring factions debated the role of government in the business realm: should it protect domestic producers or allow foreign producers to undersell American businesses? In each of his 12 chapters, Waterhouse offers a variation of his message that business history constitutes the overarching influence of the nation’s history, but the narrative suffers from cramming too much information into a relatively compact overview. The author notes that not all Americans favored a smooth path to the capitalism that ultimately prevailed, with dissenters concerned about exploitation and oppression of both laborers and consumers. The chapter on the American brand of slavery as instrumental in the building of capitalism offers emotional heft in an otherwise mostly bloodless book.

Though plagued by repetition, the book offers persuasive reasoning to support the author’s thesis.

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4767-6664-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?

more