THE AMERICANS: A Social History of the United States, 1587-1914 by J.C. Furnas

THE AMERICANS: A Social History of the United States, 1587-1914

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

J.C. Furnas, a popular social historian (The Road to Harper's Ferry, The Life and Times of the Late Demon Rum, et al) obviously never threw any of his research notes away. While others of his calling tend to brood about the myriad, impertinent facts discovered in pursuing special topics, Furnas comes up smiling with this BIG (1024 pages) discussion of the American mode of life in successive eras--self-set by the author as John Smith's America, William Penn's, William Byrd II's, Benjamin Franklin's, Oliver Evans', Abraham Lincoln's, Horatio Alger's, and Mr. Dooley's. Furnas quotes Trevelyan's ""History with the politics left out"" as his formula and compares and contrasts: housing; communications; education; the prevailing attitudes toward women and Negroes; smoking, eating, and drinking habits; entertainment, including music, theater, and novels (but strangely, only one sentence on the movies!). He's especially good at describing the immigrants of each period and the traceable influence of their customs on the already settled populace. This is a Book-of-the Month Club selection, but not to be dismissed as pop-info on pop-cult through the country's ages and stages for the middle-income middle-brow reader. For the highschool, public and college library, it's a students' handy-dandy source of supply for the sort of material left out of the political/economic history texts. And for the sort of household reached by the BOM, it's the kind of book its owners can lay down any time and return to. Furnas reports and comments on changing American circumstance with the pomp left out--whenever his fact-saturated summary begins to resemble a torrent of trivia, it nevertheless generates a taste for more...like the perpetuating peanut.

Pub Date: Aug. 18th, 1969
Publisher: Putnam