THE CHARACTER OF AMERICAN HISTORY by W. R. Brock

THE CHARACTER OF AMERICAN HISTORY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Prof. Brock is a Cambridge historian who specializes in American history. This book is an attempt to define that history in rather broad terms. Since the author is an Englishman, he can look at American history with a detachment which one does not readily find in domestic historians. The book therefore suggests an interpretation of American history which is at times novel. The first chapter deals with those essential features of American history which make it different from the histories of other nations. The second chapter encompasses the Revolution, and here the author succeeds in shedding light where it is most needed. For example, Americans are usually taught the history of the Revolution as a sort of Bible story. The Founding Fathers wear halos, and the words they uttered have become the basic text of a secular American religion. But by relegating these men and their words to the realm of the divine, Americans have failed to recognize how extraordinary an event in human history the American Revolution really was. Prof. Brock, however, writes in human terms, and he is able to convey to the reader something of the real nature of the events which made up the Revolution. Chapter three is devoted to an examination of the growth of American national feeling and its conflict with State loyalties. The chapter on the Civil War is especially commendable for its summing up of the situations in both the North and the South. Prof. Brock hints at the pathological state of the nation on the eye of the Civil War. Without meaning to, he has perhaps hit upon an important aspect of American history, which is usually ignored by historians. When he speaks of the ""madness"" in the air in 1860, he recognizes the essential irrationality in American history which heretofore only novelists have identified. Other chapters of the book deal with American Capitalism, Conservatism and Liberalism, and American foreign policy. As Prof. Brock states in his Preface, the book is intended primarily for Englishmen with no previous knowledge of the history of the United States. Nevertheless, it is an eminently interesting book for those Americans who would like to consider their country's history with a novel, refreshing detachment.

Pub Date: May 4th, 1960
ISBN: 0548444447
Publisher: St. Martin's Press