Used price: $2.45
Collectible price: $12.50
wonderful general reading work -- filled with the detail
and chronology -- and flow of American history. It is
difficult to try to convey what the experience of using
this work is like. The "history" of the United States is
presented in crisp, clear, but meaningful style and
point. Each year of the history of the United States
(starting with the 1st section of the CHRONOLOGY, cited
as 1010-1013, but actually beginning with the date of 986:
"Norse navigator Bjorn Herjulfson is blown off course
while searching for Eric the Red's coastal Greenland
settlement, founded in 986." [There is a bit more to
this citation -- the delightful irony, of course, is
the subtle inference that the discovery of "America"
has always been a sort of accident, or unintentional
error...]is filled with the citations of events for
that year arranged in chronological order.
Though there are numerous citations, by day-month-year,
in the work, concerning not just what is happening in
the English colonies, but also in the surrounding land
adjacent to the colonies, the main thrust after 1607,
is to concentrate the citations on the events within
the colonies, and later states. But still, the flow
of the work is what is so amazing -- for one sees the
events unfolding before one's mind on a day to day
basis (instead of reading a clipped general sentence
or two in a general American history book).
This work is divided into 5 major sections -- each
introduced by a noted writer. The "Introduction" is
by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., the General Editor.
Schlesinger beings his "Introduction" in a very
provocative fashion: "'In the beginning,' wrote John
Locke in the _Second Treatise on Civil Government_, 'all
the world was America.' Locke intended only a metaphor
for the state of nature that preceded the establishment
of civil society. But his metaphor evokes much more.
It implies a way America was first seen in Europe -- as
a new beginning, a break in the long, sad continuities
of history, a fresh chance for fallen humanity."
From there, Schlesinger writes of the major sources of
paradox which he sees in American history. The first
paradox, he says, is that though Americans seem to live
by experiment (William James's "pragmatic tinkering"),
they also show a recurrent weakness (Schlesinger's term)
for ideology. The second paradox lies in the antagonism
between the American affirmation of equality and the
American tolerance of inequality. The third paradox
is the continuing tension between order and violence
in American life. The fourth paradox lies in the question
of conformity versus diversity. And the final paradox
has to do with the nature of the American experiment
itself -- how Americans, themselves, have seen their
vision, or mission, or goal.
Schlesinger discusses each of these sources of paradox
in the "Introduction." The 5 sections of the work are:
Founding a Nation (986-1787), introduced by Gordon S.
Wood -- Testing a Union (1788-1865), introduced by
Marcus Cunliffe -- Forging a Nation (1866-1900),
introduced by S. L. Mayer -- Expanding Resources
(1901-1945), introduced by Richard C. Wade --and
Emerging as a World Power (1946- ), introduced by
Robert H. Ferrell.
An example of the sort of detail which is available
in this marvelous reference/general reading treasure
is this set of citations -- under the year 1762:
3 November 1762 War: In the secret Treaty of
Fontainebleau, French monarch Louis XV deeds to Spain
all French territory west of the Missisppi River and
the Isle of Orleans in Louisiana to compensate Spain
for her losses at the hands of the British [in the
French and Indian War/Seven Years War]. The French
are anxious to bring an early end to the Seven Years
War. (p. 97)
Then on p. 174, under the year 1800, comes the citation:
1 October 1800 International: In the secret Treaty of San
Ildefonso, Spain cedes Louisiana to France at the command
of Napoleon Bonaparte, who envisions a French colonial
empire on the North American continent. [This ownership,
of course, allows him to sell it to the Jefferson
led government, as the Louisiana Purchase (1803), when
Napoleon's dreams of empire die in Haiti at the
hands of Touissant L'Ouverture.]
There is also an excellent Index in the back to
find people, places, and events in the CHRONOLOGY.
List price: $23.00 (that's 30% off!)
Used price: $13.15
Buy one from zShops for: $14.00
Used price: $0.75
Collectible price: $2.60
Buy one from zShops for: $5.00
Used price: $0.78
Collectible price: $2.00
Buy one from zShops for: $1.80
Buy one from zShops for: $115.97
Used price: $6.22
Buy one from zShops for: $6.02
Used price: $2.35
Collectible price: $2.99
Buy one from zShops for: $15.56
Used price: $59.99
The whole idea is that you get all the important events of the 20th century in an enjoyable fashion. It covers all aspects of the history like scientific breakthroughs, artistic movements, wars, politics, from all around the world but with a particular emphasis in the US history ( I have also read the Greek version which gives more emphasis in Greek history).
The book is huge and it is more like an encyclopedia rather than a history book. I like to read it before I go to bed and I doubt that any reader will be able to go from cover to cover singlehandedly. It will really strenghten your skills in world history and because of the informal way of covering the events (more like a reporters point of view rather than a professor of history) you will be able to remember a lot after you have read the book. I enjoyed particularly the coverage of the WWII, it is breathtaking, its like reliving the whole thing. I can only imagine the poor people reading in the newspapers of the era the advancement of Hitlers troop across Europe and then the break of war and the losses and the great battles and..... I can go forever.
This book is also a great option for a gift. Believe me the people that you are going to give this book will really appreciate it and will rember you for a long time.
List price: $50.00 (that's 30% off!)
Used price: $21.75
Buy one from zShops for: $19.95
The BEST part, to me, is the "chain reference" feature. When you get to the bottom of an article (about, say, the completion of the Hindenburg), there is a small date in italics at the end which points you to the next article concerning the Hindenburg. This is OUTSTANDING for following a chain of events through history.
GREAT reading for knowledge or leisure!
Used price: $8.97
The book is short and focuses on Madison's presidency, with some background on his accomplishments before becoming president. The story that Garry Wills tells is that James Madison enjoyed a moderately successful presidency in spite of himself. While he was a brilliant and effective member of the legislature, he really didn't have what it takes to be a good president. He was too much of an ideologue and not enough of a pragmatic. One of his big mistakes was the embargo. Both before and during his presidency he believed England was more reliant on trade with the U.S. that the the other way around.
The passages about early naval battles in the War of 1812 were fun: the fledgling United States whipping the most powerful navy in the world. Of course, Madison thought the war could easily be won on land and didn't even think we should have a navy. Nor did he think we should have a federal bank, until he ran out of money to carry on the war. The idea that he was ruining the U.S. economy with his embargo probably never occurred to him.
But the book has a happy ending. The War of 1812 ended without destroying the U.S. Additionally, during Madison's presidency the extreme polarization between the Federalists and the Republicans was tempered quite a bit-more people recognized the need for a stronger federal government. All in all, the United States of America was in a better place at the end of Madison's 8 years as president.
Wills notes that Madison had weak points which he carried over to the presidency: "...a certain provincialism with regard to the rest of the world and a certain naiveté with regard to the rest of his human beings." The book's first three chapters cover the "Pre-Presidential Years" noting "Madison is called the father of the Constitution. It is a title deeply deserved on many accounts." He had an intimate connection with all three administrations preceding his presidency being responsible for the framing and passage of the Bill of Rights.
The balance of the book, ten chapters, covers his presidency. He became president under very difficult circumstances. Jefferson literally had given up governing the nation for four crucial months passing on a stalled executive to Madison who had no real executive experience before becoming president. Lacking leadership experience the author relates the many cabinet and personnel problems he experienced while his provincialism often allowed him to get suckered punched in foreign affairs. Contrary to common belief, the Congressional "War Hawks" of the West did not thrust the War of 1812 on him. Madison wanted the war.
The author gives a succinct account of Madison and the conduct of the war from the aborted attempt to conquer Canada to the bright performance of the American Navy. In 1814 when the war was shifting in America's favor, Washington was burned in what the author calls "a perfect study of what was wrong with Madison' conduct of the war..." Political basis for military appointments (a practice continued into the Civil War) and reliance on state militia rather than army professionals contributed significantly to the Washington debacle.
The text gives a brief account of the work of the American peace commission and the treaty ending the war, which the Senate approved on February 16, 1815. The author notes, "Not a single one of its announced war goals had been reached....", but notes that "During his last year in office, Madison rode the swell of popular nationalism...." During the war Madison was truer to the strictures of the Constitution than any subsequent war president "as if to prove that the Constitution did not have to be jettisoned in a crisis."
Garry Wills answers the question of how could James Madison be so outstanding in certain aspects of his life and be overshadowed in others. He concludes this book writing "No man could do everything for the country-not even Washington. Madison did more than most, and did some things better than any. That is quite enough."
The reader will find parallels in today's national politics with the political shenanigans of the Madison era.