Peter Brown is one of the best historians of Christianity today. In this book, he reexamines the role of Christianity in the collapse of the western Roman empire. Strikingly, he finds that christianity was part of the late Roman world not an attacking outsider. I really enjoyed it but I am a historian so I do like more academic approaches to history.
I have to admit I was looking for a social history, focusing on how people responded to the depression, and this wasn't it. However, it is an interesting look at this turning point in American history. Robert's persuasively argues that this economic crisis pushed Americans to reconceive the role of state governments and their assumptions about economic growth. Most interestingly, Roberts demonstrates the complicated interrelationships between American popular belief in their destiny to expand across the continent, the military and diplomatic aspects of this expansion, and the reality that antebellum America economically depended on British investments, banks, and customers. Politicians might be guided by popular enthusiasm but they also had to contend with economic realities that might contradict the will of the people.
As a historian, I'm probably biased but I loved this as a work of microhistory -- taking a huge event and looking at its impact in a small world. If you are looking for a novel, it may be too dry but if you want a work of history, it's wonderful.
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