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A Short History of the United States Hardcover – EveryBook, October 7, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; Complete Numbers Starting with 1, 1st Ed edition (October 7, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060831448
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060831448
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 2.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #247,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

To write a thorough, balanced history of the United States in under 400 pages is no mean feat. Remini, professor of history emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a National Book Award winner for his work on Andrew Jackson, deftly wraps his expertise and deep knowledge of his subject in stripped-down prose that provides everything a casual (or bewildered) reader needs to know about the United States from the first English colonists until the beginning of 2008. Remini's final chapters are slightly rushed and his judgments too general to be useful, but these flaws are easily overshadowed by his masterful middle sections focusing on the 19th century (his scholarly specialty). In contrast to some surveys of American history, like Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States or William Bennett's America: The Last Best Hope, Remini delivers an objective narrative of this nation's history that readers of all political stripes will appreciate. 16 pages of b&w illus., 14 maps. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The reigning scholarly biographer of Andrew Jackson, Remini has been a frequent writer of popular works on American history; his topics have ranged from The Battle of New Orleans (1999) and Joseph Smith (2002) to presidential inaugural speeches (Fellow Citizens, 2008). Here, Remini covers the whole American shebang in 368 pages, yielding a parsimonious narrative that to regular readers of American history resembles an outline—but they aren’t Remini’s audience. He seems to be writing for those who need anchorage in the major events in the development of the U.S., a large target indeed considering the gaps in the public’s knowledge of U.S. history as revealed by occasional surveys. An instructive technique Remini uses is to emphasize a precedent in history, such as the Mayflower Compact or the legislation of the First Congress under the Constitution, whose influence extends up to the present. Besides government, Remini applies this method to economics, civil rights, and foreign affairs. A good choice for general circulation needs. --Gilbert Taylor

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Customer Reviews

I'm not much a of reader but I find this book interesting as well as informative.
It's really easy to understand the events because the author breaks it down for the audience.
I tried to read this book and, in spite of being a history buff, could not finish it.
H. Cornetto

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By mrliteral VINE VOICE on August 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Robert Remini is a great history writer, having written the definitive biographies of not only Andrew Jackson but Daniel Webster and Henry Clay as well. Although his expertise is with the Jacksonian era, he is well-versed in the rest of U.S. history as well, something that was demonstrated in his history of the House of Representatives. Now, he uses his broader field of knowledge again with A Short History of the United States.

Consider all the volumes of books on the Civil War alone, with even many focusing on a single battle. It's obvious that there is a lot to say about American History, and to capture it all in less than 350 pages of text isn't easy. Of course, this means glossing over a lot of things, but Remini does a good job at capturing many of the key points.

Everything you probably remember from your high school History class is here, from the original Indian settlers to Columbus, the Pilgrims, the Revolution, the Civil War, WWI, the Great Depression, WWII and the Cold War. The book concludes at the beginning of 2008, so the McCain-Obama race isn't mentioned.

For the most part, Remini keeps things objective, but there are bits of commentary here and there, particularly as he starts discussing more recent times. Certainly, the faults of recent presidents are discussed, and it's evident that Remini leans more heavily against the Republicans. Is this bias, or do the facts merit this? Each reader will make his own decision, based on his own political leanings.

A Short History of the United States is well-written; Remini is too good to write a bad book, though this is not his best work. It serves its purpose well, however, giving the reader a solid overview of American History and a context in which to place more event-specific or person-specific reads.
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26 of 36 people found the following review helpful By JKHero on March 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The author is apparently the official historian of the U.S. House of Representatives - and it shows. Although wars and inventions and such are reported, this book is primarily a history of the U.S. government with an emphasis on Congress. As the book progresses, time moves slower and the final 100 pages cover just 1941-2008. Also, Remini becomes more harshly critical of presidents from LBJ on, which adds to the length of later chapters. // Maps, which are normally helpful in history books, are small-scale in this book, and some are poorly placed. A map of "1803-1807 Western Explorations" is placed before the Declaration of Independence. The 1810 map is placed three pages before the 1800 map. // A few misconceptions common to high school texts are included: The Hessians were sleeping off a Christmas celebration when attacked at Trenton, an unlikely 4,000 Cherokee died on the Trail of Tears, and giving Panama ownership and control of the Panama Canal was a "success" in foreign affairs. // The book has a fair number of typos and questionable sentences. It also has a few outright contradictions: LBJ's domino effect didn't occur although one paragraph later Cambodia fell to Communism, and "Reagan inherited an economy crippled" while one page later Reagan's policies caused the economy to be "in decline." // More blatant errors include the Confederacy adopting a Constitution on Feb.8 (instead of Feb.4) 1861 and the Confederacy moving its capital from Atlanta (instead of Birmingham) to Richmond after Virginia seceded. // I recommend this book to politicians who want to read a politically correct review of the history of the U.S. government.
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23 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Gray M. Pedersen on January 4, 2010
Format: Paperback
Oh dear: I bought Remini's book yesterday with some anticipation. As a high school teacher of U. S. history, I have, for many years, pursued the Holy Grail: the Ideal American History Survey Text. I would love to give my students a comprehensive, modern, and accurate book that is enjoyable to read. There are some good texts out there, but one always hopes that somebody, somewhere will come out a refreshing and new version of the survey that will engage student readers in an intelligent way. So I wondered, would Remini's short history do the trick?
Alas, the book disappointed in just the first couple of pages. The style was smooth and readable, but factual errors appeared almost from start. What editor could not catch Remini's mistaken description of the astrolabe, used by early seagoing explorers, as a device to "determine the longitude of their ships at sea," when it was only used for finding latitude? (seagoing exploration and commerce were woefully limited by navigators' inability to calculate longitude until well into the Eighteenth Century, and most historians usually have a clue about that fact). And poor old Columbus landed on "Watling's" island, which I guess Remini meant to be Watling Island.
Okay: picky, picky stuff. But I can't give my students a book full of little inaccuracies. Other reviewers have noted other factual errors in Remini's book as well, some of them much more significant than the ones I've mentioned here. The errors indicate a degree of carelessness, either in the book's writing or its editing. My students just can not be given such work to learn from.
I have deeply appreciated and admired Robert Remini's work, especially his superb histories of the Jacksonian period. But "Short History of the United States" is not up to his high standard. In history, as he knows, the little things really do count.
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