Though Ellis doesn't exactly skimp on the horrors of the period -- which began with a depression and ended with the influenza epidemic that killed ten million more than had perished in World War I -- this is essentially a jolly Frederick Lewis Allen-style book in which Mabel Dodge's peyote party takes up as much space as the logistics of defense mobilization. The pre-war chapters are the best part: Henry Ford's peace crusade, the wiretapping of the GOP headquarters at election time, the German spies and saboteurs who, Ellis said, did extensive damage before the U.S. entered the conflict. Also excellent is an uncommon series of sketches of Woodrow Wilson, his earnest fears for the Constitution, his admonition to the NAACP that racial segregation was ""a benefit,"" his professed desire to ""kick around"" Washington in rouge and beads, and the jig he danced the night of his second honeymoon unpresidentially singing ""Oh, You Beautiful Doll."" The Constitution was, of course, scrapped, and Ellis runs through the wartime persecutions, censorship and torture. He has hard words for the munition makers (and earlier a whole chapter is devoted to the details of Rockefeller brutality in the Colorado coal domains). But he leaves unexplored the American financiers' need to have their British debtors make good, and his temperateness on subjects inviting curly-lettered nostalgia is accompanied by a failure to give a full sense of ordinary Americans' lives.