Electoral politics and the military events of the Civil War are the main threads of Asimov's narrative and he moves briskly through a tortuously complex era. But though Asimov strives for neutrality throughout, his choice of subject matter gives this history an establishment cast--the Seminole War, for example, becomes merely an incident in Spanish-American relations, and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is hardly more than a footnote to military victory. And there is certainly little indication here that this was the age of canals and railroads. Cultural history, though it slips in sideways now and then, is barely covered. Asimov does appreciate the ironies of foreign policy--during these years the United States often considered itself the standard bearer for world revolution while Russia defended traditional regimes. And the unfussy outline of presidential policies and the solidification of our two-party tradition (which clarifies the importance of one-issue parties like the Anti-Masons) makes this a useful overview and a good point of departure for more specialized studies.