To America: Personal Reflections of an Historian

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9780743252126: To America: Personal Reflections of an Historian
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Completed shortly before Ambrose's untimely death, To America is a very personal look at our nation's history through the eyes of one of the twentieth century's most influential historians.

Ambrose roams the country's history, praising the men and women who made it exceptional. He considers Jefferson and Washington, who were progressive thinkers (while living a contradiction as slaveholders), and celebrates Lincoln and Roosevelt. He recounts Andrew Jackson's stunning defeat of a superior British force in the battle of New Orleans with a ragtag army in the War of 1812. He brings to life Lewis and Clark's grueling journey across the wilderness and the building of the railroad that joined the nation coast to coast. Taking swings at political correctness, as well as his own early biases, Ambrose grapples with the country's historic sins of racism; its ill treatment of Native Americans; and its tragic errors such as the war in Vietnam, which he ardently opposed. He contrasts the modern presidencies of Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, and Johnson. He considers women's and civil rights, immigration, philanthropy, and nation building. Most powerfully, in this final volume, Ambrose offers an accolade to the historian's mighty calling.

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"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 was a renowned historian and acclaimed author of more than thirty books. Among his New York Times bestsellers are Nothing Like It in the World, Citizen Soldiers, Band of Brothers, D-Day - June 6, 1944, and Undaunted Courage. Dr. Ambrose was a retired Boyd Professor of History at the University of New Orleans and a contributing editor for the Quarterly Journal of Military History.

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