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A Conspiracy So Immense: The World of Joe McCarthy Paperback – September 29, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (September 29, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019515424X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195154245
  • Product Dimensions: 1.6 x 6 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #265,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A staggeringly successful and rare new book of history... It is hard to tell in the space of this column why A Conspiracy So Immense impressed me so much. Of course, it has something to do with the excellent writing, which may set a standard for crisp, witty historical prose... It has something to do with the extraordinary thoroughness of Oshinsky's research. His footnotes are historical gold mines. [Above all] Oshinsky shows that in that evil time, even the purest of motives were soiled. He shows us what man is. That is what makes great history, which is what A Conspiracy So Immense is."--Ben Stein, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner

"[Oshinsky is] a great storyteller; he has done some terrific research, and best of all, he knows how to handle the drama of the era without getting too preachy."--The New York Times Book Review

"Oshinsky's elegant and comprehensive biographycan now lay its own claim to being the finest account available of Joe McCarthy's career."--Review in American History

"The objectivity and scholarship of A Conspiracy so Immense should make it a standard treatmenta vivid account of the Senator's progress from demagogue to grand inquisitor."--The New Leader

"Professor David Oshinsky's A Conspiracy So Immense is the finest book on the period I have read."-Patrick J. Buchanan

About the Author


David Oshinsky is George Littlefield Professor of American History at the University of Texas. His previous books include Worse than Slavery: Parchman farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow, which won the Robert Kennedy prize for its contribution to human rights, and Polio: An American Story (Oxford University Press).

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Customer Reviews

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For the real facts on this living nightmare of a man, read this book.
Joseph Goodfriend
As we have learned since with the release of the Venona documents, the Rosenbergs were guilty (well there's some question about Ethel).
John Matlock
In this version, McCarthy may have been crude and abrasive but he accomplished good work for the cause of freedom.
Harry Eagar

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 52 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 5, 1997
Format: Paperback
Historian David Oshinsky, Professor of History at Rutgers University, does a masterful job in chronicling the life and times of one the most controversial political figures in our history. Oshinsky, an excellent story teller, allows the narrative to unfold in an unforced way, combining breazy prose with an excellent command of facts, thus allowing the drama of the McCarthy era to unwind naturally. Unlike most chroniclers of the early cold war -- and in particular, McCarthy biographers -- Oshinsky takes the time to examine McCarthy's childhood and rise to prominense with an unbiased eye. He notes that McCarthy was an excellent student, finishing four years in high school in one year; an industrious and indefatigable worker, helping his parents tend to the family farm while also starting his own poultry business; and a caring and warm person, liked by the town folk and respected by community leaders. McCarthy, however, also had competitive streak -- a win at anything cost mentality -- according to the author. In a given environment, such as campus politics, he was often daring, brutal and unforgiving -- completely focused on the task at hand. Oshinsky recites the story where McCarthy, in his final year of college, ran for class president. Prior to election day, McCarthy and his opponent agreed to vote for the other fellow, thus keeping the election friendly. McCarthy, however, after learning the election was a dead heat, changed his vote, telling his opponent that "the best man should win." Oshinsky notes that McCarthy could be both ruthless and caring; one moment, stealing an election, and the next, caring for a needy friend. This trait, writes Oshinsky, would run like an ubroken line throughout McCarthy's career.Read more ›
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48 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Robert Doti on May 13, 2006
Format: Paperback
Oshinsky gives the most complete review of McCarthy's life of any historian. He tries to appraise McCarthy's controveries and does not take part in the vicious name calling of a Ricahrd Rovere. However he comes from a liberal perspective and to get a fair appraisal from a conservative historian - read Hermann's McCarthy.

Since Venona has been released Oshinshy should have rewritten this book and not reissued the book he wrote in 1982.The events of 9/11 can give us an analogy.

Imagine if a professor advised the state department that the Taliban was the best hope for Afghanistan and that bin Ladin was just an agrarian reformer. Imagine if military secrets as the H bomb was given to Iran and that key government officials belonged to Islamist groups. Imagine if a senator would look at the aspects of that ? Would he be called intolerate of other religions ?

Owen lattimore urged that Mao was an Agrarian reformer. Mao killed millions. Larrimore made millions of bucks on his 'brilliant" observations. Oshinsky shouldn't defend this man. Klaus Fuchs, Rosenbergs, Hall etc gave the bomb to Russia. Hiss helped shape our foreign policy and even gave Russia three votes in the General Assembly.

So balance is really needed. McCarthy was a patriotic man who used bad means to an end. But his enemies sometimes used worse methods as Oshinsky demonstrates in the Joseph Rauh case and Eisenhower's minions forging letters.

McCarthy was brought down by Roy Cohn wanting favorable treatment for a possible lover- David Schine but curiously Oshinsky does not update the book with Cohn's sexuality and this would be an important insight.

In short this was a brilliant book for 1982 but the newer revelations as Venona , Cohn etc demands an update for this book
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By jennie on July 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
ordered this book for history class
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Adam B. Ritchie Jr. on November 6, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A wonderful book, I couldn't put it down. And for you fussy academics the scholarship is impeccable too. The precipitate of left v. right comments appearing with mine on this amazon site proves that McCarthy lives. "I want to bring him back," said the owner's son and heir apparent at a company I consult for. McCarthy's refusal to avert his senate censure assured that he would live on into our time as a fallen hero of the political right.

Robert Doti has a mild criticism that the author should have refreshed the text by treating Cohn's "sexuality" in the 2005 edition. Not so. The author reveals Cohn's homosexuality brilliantly by letting it come out in the letters to Senator Flanders and in Flanders' own belief that Cohn and Schine were lovers. So readers in the nineteen-eighties did not go wanting.

What moves me the most is Oshinsky's illumination of the same left-right dichotomy which exists today: the patrician, ivy-league left versus the gritty, academically undistinguished right, Stephen Breyer versus Harriet Myers, John Kerry versus Rick Perry. The reason why the Republicans will likely win in 2012 is that the reckless and cruel actors of the Bush years, their political and economic havoc notwithstanding, were replaced by a president with immense promise who proved to be academic and effete and worse yet by a return of Proust's Sodome et Gomorrhe or of Berg's Lulu as a normal way to live.
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5 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Sheila Dreckman on May 27, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this book hard to put down. It was well-written and brought across a real sense of McCarthy and his times. The author was as neutral as could be expected when dealing with the facts of McCarthy's actions. McCarthy's actions spoke for themselves, he was an arrogant man who thought he couldn't be stopped. He kept claiming that his responsibility was not to prove innocent or guilt, but to accuse. He had an end justifies the means attitude. The End was publicity for Joe McCarthy, and the means was accusing anyone and everyone of being a communist, even if he had to make up lies. What amazes me about this era was the idea that the Russians were so stupid they couldn't build the A-bomb without stealing our secrets, yet they were smart enough to infiltrate our government and take it over if we weren't diligent in rooting them out even at the expense of crushing innocent reputations.

There were a couple of problems with the book, mostly the author's intrusion. A few times, maybe three or four, he bragged how the information he had just cited had not been cited in any other biography of McCarthy. I felt this was unnecessary and bogged down the narrative. All biographers have to pick and choose. There never is room for everything. Also, several of the footnotes didn't make sense to me. I couldn't quite understand what he was getting at. Also, a couple of times he had minor facts that didn't seem right.

But, overall, I would definitely recommend the book.
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