The Reader's Companion to American History

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9780395513729: The Reader's Companion to American History

The Reader's Companion to American History offers a fresh, absorbing portrait of the United States from the origins of its native peoples to the nation's complex identity in the 1990s. Covering political, economic, cultural, and social history, and combining hundreds of short descriptive entries with longer evaluative articles, the encyclopedia is informative, engaging, and a pleasure to read. The Reader's Companion is sponsored by the Society of American Historians, an organization dedicated to promoting literary excellence in the writing of biography and history. Under the editorship of the eminent historians John A. Garraty and Eric Foner, a large and distinguished group of scholars, biographers, and journalists -- nearly four hundred contemporary authorities -- illuminate the critical events, issues, and individuals that have shaped our past. More than a reference book to be consulted simply for the dates or details of an event, the Companion offers a history of ideas. It distinguishes itself from conventional encylcopedias by featuring several hundred thematic articles. A chronological account of immigration, for example, is complemented by a conceptual article on ethnicity. Similarly, the Bull Moose party and the Know-Nothings, examined in individual entries, are also placed within a larger context in an article on third parties in American politics. And readers consulting entries on specific religious groups, leaders, and movements will be led to an article offering an overview of religion in America. Linking discrete facts, dates, and events through its interpretive essays, the Reader's Companion presents the overarching themes and ideas that have animated our historical landscape. Over the past twenty years, the study of history has undergone a metamorphosis. Political history, once the primary avenue for exploring the past, has given way to the "new social history." Focus has shifted from key events and leaders to everyday life in America, including the history of the family, women and the work force, race relations, and community life. The Reader's Companion to American History reflects this broader vision of our past. Interweaving traditional political and economic topics with the spectrum of America's social and cultural legacies -- everything from marriage to medicine, crime to baseball, fashion to literature -- the Companion is certain to engage the curiosity, interests, and passions of every reader.

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Review:

Like an encyclopedia, The Reader's Companion to American History contains alphabetical entries for almost every important person, place, or event in America's past. Unlike an encyclopedia, however, this lively interpretive volume is meant to be read and enjoyed, not merely used as a reference. It contains three different kinds of articles: short, unsigned listings similar to those found in most encyclopedias; signed biographical pieces by historical authorities; and longer essays on broad topics such as abolitionism or 20th-century art. Each article cross-references related topics, and an extensive index opens up webs of interrelationships, making it possible to delve deeply into areas of special interest. Accessible, comprehensive, and surprisingly affordable, The Reader's Companion to American History merits an important place in any home library.

About the Author:

John A. Garraty is the Gourverneur Morris Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University and a former president of the Society of American Historians. His publications include Unemployment in History, The New Commonwealth, The Great Depression, and numerous history textbooks. He was an editor of the Columbia History of the World and the editor of recent supplements of the Dictionary of American Biography. He is currently the editor of the multivolume American National Biography.

Eric Foner is the DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University and has been selected president of the Organization of American Historians for 1993-1994. His books include Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: Politics and Ideology in the Age of the Civil War; Tom Paine and Revolutionary America; and the highly acclaimed Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, which received five awards, including the Bancroft and Parkman prizes.

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Foner, Eric and Garraty, John, Editors
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