A concise, thematic book of American history that underscores the constant, ongoing tug between the forces of self-interest and those of social responsibility.
Acclaimed scholars Gilmore (History/Yale Univ.; Defying Dixie: The Radical Roots of Civil Rights: 1919-1950, 2008, etc.) and Sugrue (History/New York Univ.; Not Even Past: Barack Obama and the Burden of Race, 2010, etc.) team up to present the unfolding of the so-called American century, from the great promise displayed at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in August 1893 to the presidency of Barack Obama. Presented in a tidy, compelling fashion, the themes that reoccur constantly are the side-by-side evolution of a sense of a survival-of-the-fittest approach to American society—e.g., in the accomplishments of the great self-made entrepreneurs such as John Rockefeller—and the growth of a progressive movement committed to the benefits of organized labor, women’s suffrage, and income and racial equality. Moving chronologically, the authors capture the forces that spurred America toward world leadership during this century, through the Wilsonian idealism of self-determination and the sweeping New Deal policies of Franklin Roosevelt, as well as the precipitous, strong-armed military actions in the Spanish-American War, Vietnam War, and later wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The authors provide excellent coverage of social currents that emerged from the great crisis of World War II (“In at Least Modest Comfort: Postwar Prosperity and Its Discontents”) that then galvanized the enormous social change of the 1960s. Keeping the chapters short and broken up into palatable segments, the authors devote one entire chapter to the fractious upheaval that occurred between 1968 and 1974. Moreover, to keep things readable, the authors often interweave stories of regular individuals who experienced or chronicled some historical glimpse in time—e.g., William Frank Fonvielle and his alarming firsthand look at new forms of segregation springing up in the Deep South in 1890.
A terrifically accessible, up-to-date educational tool.