Burns' survey of American history (The Vineyard of Liberty, 1981; The Workshop of Democracy, 1985) concludes with this densely packed but less-than-profound volume covering the period from the Roosevelt era to the present. The author's perspective seems to be summed up in a headpiece that quotes from the "Letter from Birmingham Jail," by Martin Luther King, Jr., and concludes: "the goal of America is Freedom." Artfully weaving together presidential biography, cultural history, and national and international politics, Burns moves deftly from one phase to another over the last 55 years of American history: the depression of the 30's, WW II and the Cold War eras of the 40's and 50's, and so on down through the Reagan years. The coverage is broad and comprehensive: the fluency of the account is both one of its strongest and weakest points--the energetic pace of narrative presents events and personalities with almost cinematic vividness and with hardly a pause for breath--or deep reflection. His portrait of FDR, for example, enriched with memorable quotations, shows the man and the leader in bold, impressive strokes. A skillfully managed narrative, then, but one that allows little room for patient study or thoughtful, original analysis of social and political developments. "Freedom," in this study, remains less a complex idea than a compelling verbal rallying-point.