PIVOTAL DECADES: The United States, 1900-1920 by

PIVOTAL DECADES: The United States, 1900-1920

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A conventional history of the broad, sweeping forces that formed modern America from 1900 to 1920. Cooper (History/Univ. of Wisconsin) offers little new interpretation of the Progressive era or of material that is not already in standard texts of the period. Today, there is a need for American historians to bring recent research in separate areas (e.g., urban, black, women's history, etc.) together into new, comprehensive works. Cooper claims he is doing just that for the first 20 years of this century's America--but his own book, overbalanced toward the more traditional political and diplomatic trends, falls short of this aim. It seems, in fact, that Cooper has simply found a way to reshape and expand on some of this research for his 1983 dual biography of the two Progressive-era Presidents, Roosevelt and Wilson (The Warrior and the Priest). New historical material here is thin and not well integrated and, overall, the book reads like a textbook of the era. Its prose is static; its generalizations at times extreme (e.g., ""The President's pervasive unpopularity. . ."" for Wilson in 1920; or ""The 1920s mark a decade as readily categorized as any in American history""). Fortunately, though, Cooper does a fine job of providing us with nicely contrasted images of two Americas: the one in 1900 culminating the 19th century, and the second in 1920--the transformed and hardly recognizable modern counterpart. While Cooper is on the right track, this critical period in US history definitely warrants an updated, comprehensive work more bold and original in interpretation than this one proves to be.

Pub Date: April 23rd, 1990
Publisher: Norton