To America: Personal Reflections of an Historian

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9780743202756: To America: Personal Reflections of an Historian

In To America, Stephen Ambrose, one of America's most influential historians, reflects on his long career as and explains what an historian's job is all about. When Stephen Ambrose became intersted in American history at age 18, there was much that America had done that made him proud, but there were some things he condemned as well, for instance slavery, the treatment of Native Americans, racist Southern politicians, the Robber Barons of the transcontinental railroad, the use of the atomic bomb. All through his undergraduate and graduate years from 1953-1960, Ambrose learned such ideas from his professors and believed and then taught them himself when he became a teacher of history in 1960. But after reasearching and writing about the Civil War in graduate school, Eisenhower in the 60s, Crazy Horse and Custer, Lewis and Clark, Nixon, the transcontinental railroad, and World War II over the next three decades, Ambrose's views on American history changed. In his new book the renowned historian celebrates America's spirit and confronts its failures and struggles. As always in his much acclaimed work, Ambrose brings alive the men and women, famous and not, who have peopled history and made the United States the superpower it is now.

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Review:

"I am a storyteller by training and inclination," writes the late Stephen Ambrose in To America, his final book. And what a storyteller. One of the most respected and popular historians of his era, Ambrose had a passion for making the events of the past both relevant and entertaining. In these pages, he touches on many of the subjects that he devoted his career to, including presidents Eisenhower and Nixon, the journey of Lewis and Clark, the building of the transcontinental railroad, and the citizen soldiers of World War II. He also writes about his own personal story and his role as a historian. In detailing a family camping trip to Wounded Knee (an outing which directly led to his dual biography of Crazy Horse and George Armstrong Custer) or offering tips on vivid historical writing (keep your narration in chronological order; keep the reader guessing; and never use the passive voice), he shares what it is like to reflect upon the triumphs and mistakes of the past and why it is so important to pass those stories on to the next generation.

In this brief yet satisfying book, Ambrose moves seamlessly from one topic to the next with contagious enthusiasm and unapologetic optimism. Along the way he points out the inherent absurdity of political correctness, and even takes himself to task for past biases and for sometimes failing to consider his subjects within the context of their own times and not his own. He does not shy away from writing about America's sins, both past and present, but Ambrose's undying faith in his country and his fellow citizens is inspiring. --Shawn Carkonen

About the Author:

Stephen E. Ambrose, leading World War II historian, is the author of numerous books on history including the bestselling Band Of Brothers and definitive biographies on Eisenhower and Nixon. He is founder of the Eisenhower Center and the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans.

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