In a miracle of concision, Paul S. Boyer provides a wide-ranging and authoritative history of America, capturing in a compact space the full story of our nation. Ranging from the earliest Native American settlers to the presidency of Barack Obama, this Very Short Introduction offers an illuminating account of politics, diplomacy, and war as well as the full spectrum of social, cultural, and scientific developments that shaped our country.
Here is a masterful picture of America's achievements and failures, large-scale socio-historical forces, and pivotal events. Boyer sheds light on the colonial era, the Revolution and the birth of the new nation; slavery and the Civil War; Reconstruction and the Gilded Age; the Progressive era, the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression; the two world wars and the Cold War that followed; right up to the tragedy of 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the epoch-making election of Barack Obama. Certain broad trends shape much of the narrative - immigration, urbanization, slavery, continental expansion, the global projection of U.S. power, the centrality of religion, the progression from an agrarian to an industrial to a post-industrial economic order. Yet in underscoring such large themes, Boyer also highlights the diversity of the American experience, the importance of individual actors, and the crucial role of race, ethnicity, gender, and social class in shaping the contours of specific groups within the nation's larger tapestry. And along the way, he touches upon the cultural milestones of American history, from Tom Paine's The Crisis to Allen Ginsberg's Howl.
American History: A Very Short Introduction is a panoramic history of the United States, one that covers virtually every topic of importance - and yet can be read in a single day.
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©2012 Oxford University Press (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
Dr. Boyer's account of the discovery of America, founding of Jamestown & Plymouth, the Revolution, first half of the 19th Century, and up through the Civil War & Reconstruction isn't half bad, if a bit heavy on social vs. military or political history. This is why, overall, it gets two stars instead of one. In the Gilded Age, the narrative becomes a bit "social justice" heavy, but returns to relative balance through WWI. After WWI, he seems so bent on coloring anything that can be construed as conservative or Republican as "dark", "reactionary", "intransigent" , etc., that the narrative loses objectivity and becomes a caricature of what is often criticized about academia today... namely, that objectivity gives place to ideological interpretation to ensure students know WHAT to think instead of trying to teach them HOW to think. It seems too risky to simply present the facts without ideological interpretation. And my goodness, must everything be cast in the light of racism, sexism, sexuality, or social justice? If an academic must write that, please, let them do it in the sociology department.
The reader did a good job... especially expressing the underlying contempt for the right that the author seems to have taken no pains to hide.
If you want a good, pithy, but incredibly sweeping and erudite read on history, listen to The Lessons of History by Will & Ariel Durant (read brilliantly by Grover Gardner). While you may not agree with all of the conclusions, the breadth of the analysis and the erudite, gentle, philosophical, and humble way in which is it written makes it hard to resist. I must've listened 20 times by now, and I learn something every time. A refreshing contrast to this, well, piece of work.
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