The American Century

Evans, Harold

Published by Knopf 9/22/1998, 1998
ISBN 10: 0679410708 / ISBN 13: 9780679410706
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0679410708 Excellent condition, hardback 1998 FIRST EDITION, no marks, great cover, great dust jacket, readit, VG+/VG+ OS. Bookseller Inventory #

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Synopsis: "In a style at once trenchant and easygoing,
Harold Evans leads us on a walk through
the century now drawing to a close, taking us
back over ground that far too many of us
have let slip from our memories."
--Shelby Foote, author of The Civil War
The American Century is an epic work. With its spectacular illustrations and incisive and lucid writing, it is as exciting and inspiring as the hundred years it surveys. Harold Evans has dramatized a people's struggle to achieve the American Dream, but also offers a thoughtful and provocative analysis of the great movements and events in America's rise to a position of political and cultural dominance. There are 900 photographs, several hundred brought to light for the first time, and the richly researched narrative offers many surprises.

In 1889, when the United States entered the second hundred years of its existence, it was by no means certain that a nation of such diverse peoples, manifold beliefs, and impossible ideals could survive its own exceptional experiment in democracy or manage to avoid a headlong slide into oblivion. Evans describes what happened to the democratic ideal amid the clash of personalities and the convulsions of great events. Here are assessments of the century's nineteen presidents, from Benjamin Harrison, who brought the Stars and Stripes into American life in 1889, to the movie star who waved it so vigorously a hundred years later. Here are the muckrakers who exposed the evils of rampant capitalism, and the women who fought to make a reality of the rhetoric of equality. Here are the robber barons--the Carnegies, the Rockefellers, and the Morgans -- carving out great empires of unparalleled wealth, turning their millions into foundations for public benefit. Here are Al Capone and J. Edgar Hoover, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Ku Klux Klan, Joe McCarthy and Dwight Eisenhower. Here is the American heartland at peace (but on the wagon), America in two world wars, and at war with itself in the sixties.

Evans analyzes the central questions of the era. Among them: How did the tradition arise that government should not meddle in business? How did anti-colonial America become an imperial power? How much was democracy threatened by the influence of money? What was the nature of American isolationism? Why did Woodrow Wilson take the United States into World War I? What caused the Great Depression, and why did it last so long? Did Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal succeed or fail? Did the protests of the sixties go too far? Was Vietnam a noble cause? Has the Watergate scandal been blown up out of all proportion? Who deserves the credit for the end of the Cold War?

Throughout, Harold Evans lets us see how America prospered because of the power of an idea: the idea of freedom. The nation did not simply become the largest economic and military power, send men to the moon and jeans and consumer capitalism to Red Square--it strengthened Western society through acts of courage, generosity, and vision unequaled in history.

The British may claim the nineteenth century by force, and the Chinese may cast a long shadow over the twenty-first, but the twentieth century belongs to the United States. This is America's story as it has never been told before.

With 900 photographs

Review: Although most of this sprawling book is set in the 20th century, it begins on April 29, 1889, when Benjamin Harrison commemorated the first centennial of American government. This 11-year jump-start allows Harold Evans to write about the last major push to settle the Western territories, the gradual dwindling of Native American societies, the rise to prominence of William Jennings Bryan, and other quintessentially American moments of the 19th century.

But make no mistake about it--The American Century is very much rooted in the modern world. Evans's tight, journalistic prose marks the significant events and personages in America's rise to superpower status and offers several educational surprises, such as a two-page spread on too-little-known naval historian Alfred Mahan, whose The Influence of Sea Power upon History shaped foreign policy in America and several European nations. His treatments of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the Watergate crisis are substantial highlights. Juxtapositions such as Ralph Nader and Rachel Carson or Jimmy Hoffa and Cesar Chavez make for a lively overview. The book essentially ends with the inauguration of George Bush in 1989, although brief mention is made to some of what has happened since then. Filled with photographs and contemporary editorial cartoons, The American Century is an excellent one-volume chronicle of a rather momentous 100 years.

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The American Century
Publisher: Knopf 9/22/1998
Publication Date: 1998
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Very Good
Edition: 1.

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