This book provides a comprehensive overview of US history from the end of the War of 1812 to just after the admission of California to the Union. The ebb and flow of politics provides the main narrative framework for the book, into which Howe weaves detailed discussions of the competing social, economic, religious and technological forces that slowly transformed the coastal states of the founders into a continent-spanning empire riven by internal disputes that would erupt in the Civil War and reverberate for more than a century after. Howe makes the entire era come alive by drawing on a wide variety of primary sources, from census data to the writings contemporary diarists and newspaper accounts, and incorporating many engaging quotes.
This would be a perfect listen for an avid student of American history, since it covers a frequently overlooked period (overlooked, I would add, for reasons which Howe discusses at length towards the end of the book) were it not for the truly horrible quality of the recording. The narrator is overall quite good, but the editing is probably among the worst I have ever encountered. There are noticeable jumps in audio quality and speed throughout, sometimes even within the same sentence. These imperfections are substantial enough that at times I found myself listening more to the atrocious mixing than the actual content, which was a shame.
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