Los Angeles | Member Since 2010
This is a well written history of the Civil War. It contains a good overview of the events and a general analysis of the events. However it doesn't really provide any "new" insights as the title suggests and it does not cover Reconstruction at all. If you're looking for a thoughtful and reasonably engaging retelling of the story of the Civil War this is a fine choice. But if you are looking for a new perspective on the events of the Civil War or if you are interested in Reconstruction history you will be disappointed.
Shelby Foote's "The Civil War" remains probably the best choice for a solid narrative history of the Civil War which is also an engaging military history. It lacks meaningful analysis, but as the name states, it is intended as a narrative and Foote writes the story in a way that engages the readers and makes you feel as if you understand the characters and events. Foote's perspective is slightly skewed towards retelling events from the Southern point of view, but is a very fair and balanced book.
Bruce Catton's "The Centennial History of the Civil War" is also a solid narrative history of the Civil War. It contains a traditional analysis of the events and is very well written.
James McPherson's "Battle Cry of Freedom" is another narrative history of the Civil War, but is outstanding for its coverage of the events that lead to the Civil War and their analysis. McPherson also does an excellent job of telling how African Americans played their role in the Civil War.
The lack of meaningful content of the Reconstruction was disappointing, the name of the book is a bit misleading. But it is a good history of the Civil War.
There are probably a good set of sermons here, but No Simple Victory is a labor to read. More of a collection of moralizing essays than a history, the author’s main points about the suffering on the Eastern front and the lack of Allied appreciation of the evil of the Soviet Union and Stalin, gets lost in the author’s obsession for assigning guilt to the western allies for crimes they had no real knowledge of and no control over.
The most serious problem is the author’s use of historical hindsight which he not so subtly uses to attribute knowledge of events and outcomes that the Allies simply did not possess. For example, he passes judgment on the Western bombing campaign against Germany as morally unjustified because it didn’t achieve all of the goals the Allies hoped it would. For example the Allies hoped that the bombing campaign would break the will of the German people to continue fighting. This obviously didn’t happen to the degree that the Allies hoped for, but they had no idea at the time how the bombing was effecting the German war effort.
I couldn’t escape the feeling while I was reading, that the author’s absolutely justifiable moral outrage over what happened on the Eastern Front (and especially Poland), had simply boiled over into a rage and the author was lashing out at any and all participants in an attempt to vent his anger. The author repeatedly returns to statistics about the suffering on the Eastern Front in a macabre dialog that basically amounts to “my pain is worse than your pain”.
Taken together, the unhistorical methods and selective remembering of events the author uses consistently combined with the accusative tone used by the author towards the reader make this a book that started with a noble purpose that degenerated into a long accusative diatribe that makes the reader want to stop reading.
This is a great story.The great deal of historical writing is filled with books about war and conflict, divisive political issues and depressing events. This is a book about human accomplishment, of people trying to build something. It takes a wide variety of circumstances and events, needs and wants, with a good deal of just plain common sense and shows how it all builds together into a positive accomplishment in human history.
The story telling is excellent and while this book definitely is not for anyone that is looking for more of "The Fast and the Furious", people that are looking for a story of positive human intellectual achievement this is an excellent book.
Very enjoyable book. The author does an excellent job of bringing together multiple threads of events that contributed to the 1837 depression in a way that tells a coherent story. The author also includes the necessary background information for the reader to place the events in an understandable context. Not really a narrative history, but a very strong analytic history of the event that doesn't sacrifice readability. The author often takes short sidetracks to add color and interest to the main story, but in a way that doesn't break the flow of the main story.
Excellent companion to read along with "Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times" by H.W. Brands. Another book that goes well with this is "Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow which provides a great background to the Bank of the United States and the tension between the Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian visions of the United States.
In the forward to the book, the editor tells us that while this book uses the story of Nathaniel Bacon as the focal point of the story, the story itself is much larger and the aim of the book is not to create a portrait of Bacon, but a landscape of the time and place he was a part of. The book succeeds in doing this very well.
The author opens with an excellent overview of the setting that Bacon entered into. He takes the time to explain how the relationships between Native American tribes, and the colonial governments of Virginia and Maryland created a complex web of interests and relationships. Into this situation he places the grievances and power politics of settlers creating a great picture of the setting into which Bacon took his actions. If there is a weak point in the analysis, it would be the author’s thin discussion of the legitimate grievances’ of the settlers at the beginning of the book which are often obscured by the narcissistic and devious behavior of Bacon. The topic of the legitimate grievances’ of the settlers is again raised in the final part of the book, and the substantial discussion here makes up for the earlier brief discussion.
The author has created a book that is both a good story as well as containing thoughtful and accessible historical analysis. He brings many of the main characters to life in an interesting way. The middle part of the work that covers the actual events of Bacon’s rebellion is particularly well told. The final part of the book that covers the aftermath of Bacon’s rebellion is much less story than it is analysis, but it still remains interesting.
Secondarily the author does a good job of demonstrating how the individual colonies (in this case Virginia, Maryland and later New York) had their own unique circumstances and politics and is a good preparation for understanding later colonial history not as a monolithic American culture, but as a collection of competing regions and factions each with their own story.
The author tells a very bland and disjointed story. It reads like a Wikipedia article more than a thoughtfully composed narrative. There are interesting side notes throughout, but the author fails to make you feel you “know” Cleveland and you get a very flat picture of the time he lived without any nuance or color. An example of this is the author begins to tell about the struggle for women’s rights and you just know there is an interesting story here, but then the author moves off into inconsequential territory.
The narration was fine.
I was genuinely looking forward to this book. It’s about a man and a period of American history that is often overlooked and I was looking forward to the seeing the period through this man. Unfortunately the book fails as both a history and a story.
As a history it’s little more than a casual reciting of events with little or no analysis. It’s definitely a political history, with little social history unless it bears on religion or economic history except as it impacts political events. The author almost completely ignores the major formative period of Cleveland’s life, his time as mayor of Buffalo, gives it a very cursory overview and make little attempt to connect Cleveland’s experiences as mayor to his later actions as President. This lack of depth is present in the coverage of his time as governor and generally throughout the book. Space could not have been an issue because the author makes time to narrate meaningless information such as the details of the 1884 nominating balloting.
The politics of Cleveland’s presidency are recited, but again there is a noticeable lack of depth. Just when the author gets you interested in learning more, he cuts the narrative off, sacrificing depth and without any meaningful analysis. The author spends more time discussing the leadership of the Vanderbilt railroads than he does on Native American relations. As a narrative political history, the contests of 1888 and 1892 and the events around them would have been a great place for the author to center a meaningful discussion, even a platform for the entire book to grow out of, but the author gives the same flat “matter of fact” style surface survey of the events that is the found throughout the book. Again space couldn’t have been a factor because the author makes room for meaningless facts such as the composition of Congress and a survey of cabinet members in the administration.
The objectivity of the book as a history is questionable. The author tends to omit information that would reflect negatively on Cleveland, except in the places where it serves the political point of view of the author. For example the author omits any discussion on the causes of the depression of 1893, but takes the time to discuss the treatment of Cleveland’s oral cancer taking place around the same time. While Cleveland’s cancer doesn’t impact on history in any real way, the depression of 1893 was the most severe depression up to this time. In other cases the author omits any discussion of alternate points of view or dismisses them with pejorative comments while praising others without explanation. Coxey's Army is basically branded as a greedy ignorant mob while Chief Justice Fuller is praised without exception even to the point of practically ignoring the landmark case of Plessy v. Ferguson.
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