"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
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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.From the Back Cover:
Praise for The American Century
"A sumptuous memory-book of an astonishing time. Like the crowded era it chronicles, The American Century is sometimes heroic, sometimes harrowing, but always compelling and relentlessly eventful. The brisk text breathes new life into even the best-remembered episodes, and the choice of historic photographs is superb."
--Geoffrey C. Ward, author of A First-Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt, and co-author of The Civil War
"Harold Evans, historian, gives us a riveting panorama of the story of the last century that shaped today's America. Observations as insightful as de Tocqueville's, matched with remarkable photos, tell the exciting story of who we are, how we got here, and where we might be headed. A book every family should have."
--General Colin L. Powell, U.S.A. (retired)
"This is history to enjoy, engagingly written, splendidly illustrated."
--Neil Sheehan, author of A Bright and Shining Lie
"A wide-ranging, politically detached view of the shaping events of the century. Excellent prose, with wonderful pictures. I much enjoyed it, as I think will all."
--John Kenneth Galbraith
"The American Century brilliantly captures the magnitude and complexities of the century itself. Harold Evans's authoritative and vividly written book is not only history at its best, but it promises to serve as a guide to the future."
--Stanley Karnow, author of Vietnam: A History
"A great rich survey of the best and the worst of centuries: how it looked, how it sounded, how it killed, how it created. This lavish book gives us much to remember, and unflinchingly reminds us of what we'd rather forget."
--Edmund Morris, author of The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt
"The American Century is a major and inspiring synthesis and overview of our history. The scope and breadth are very impressive. It is destined to become an indispensable feature in libraries across the country."
--Vartan Gregorian, Professor of History, Brown University, and President Emeritus, New York Public Library
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