The Unfinished Nation : A Concise History of the American People

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9780079131829: The Unfinished Nation : A Concise History of the American People

Perhaps never before has the writing of American history seemed so much an arena of diverse claims and discord. Scholars explore areas of the past that once seemed hidden from view. Newly assertive groups in the American population draw attention to their own distinctive pasts. The "story" of America sometimes seems to be many different stories, with nothing to tie them together.

In The Unfinished Nation, Alan Brinkley provides a clear and intelligent account of the American past that strikes a balance between the new diversity in scholarship and the narrative unity that any general history must have. He makes clear that one can incorporate the rich and varied experiences of America's many cultures into a coherent and compelling story and at the same time retain a sense of what ties Americans together as members of a perpetually troubled but remarkably successful nation.

Beginning with the "discovery" by Europeans of a "New World" that was already the home of millions of people and highly developed civilizations, The Unfinished Nation chronicles the growth of new societies in America and the survival and transformation of old ones. It traces the development of political ideas and political institutions in the American colonies and, later, in the American nation. It examines the emergence of a society divided into distinct regional cultures, each with a highly developed system of class relations, gender roles, and racial norms. It explores the great crisis of American nationalism in the mid-nineteenth century and the emergence of a more consolidated nation out of the Civil War and Reconstruction. And it describes the dazzling changes that industrialization and the rise to world power have brought in the twentieth century -- and the host of social and cultural transformations that have come with them.

The Unfinished Nation offers anyone interested in American history a picture of how new scholarship has changed our understanding of our past. It also shows how, despite these important changes, the story of America remains just that: a "story," made newly complicated perhaps, but no less remarkable and compelling for those complications.

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About the Author:

Alan Brinkley is professor of history at Columbia University. His Voices of Protest was the winner of the American Book Award in History in 1983.

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