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The Oxford Companion to United States History (Oxford Companions) Hardcover – July 4, 2001

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Editorial Reviews Review

From abortion to "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias, Abrams vs. United States to the Zenger trial, and abstract impressionism to Dr. Marie Zakrzewska, The Oxford Companion to United States History is an encyclopedic overview covering the pre-Columbian era to the election of George W. Bush in 2000.

The Companion examines the notable men and women and major events in U.S. history, such as wars or the Depression, as well as ideas and ideologies, technological innovations and economic developments, and long-term processes such as immigration and urbanization. Each entry is written by an authority on the subject, thoroughly cross-referenced in the 78-page index, and arranged alphabetically for easy reference. The alphabetic organization makes for some strange (or amusing) combinations of people on the same page: Billy Graham and Martha Graham; "Mother" Jones and Michael Jordan; Persian Gulf War and Petroleum Industry; Income Tax, Federal, and Indentured Servitude.

A browser's delight, but full of solid scholarship, The Oxford Companion to United States History deserves the treatment its editors recommend--as "a work to be thumbed and worn out, not a book to be put behind glass on a shelf!" Absolutely essential for the well-stocked history library. --Sunny Delaney

From Library Journal

With this long-awaited update to The Oxford Companion to American History (1966), social historian Boyer (Univ. of Wisconsin; Notable American Women) has put together an extraordinary single-volume compendium of 1400 entries on U.S. history with the assistance of more than 900 contributors, including many well-recognized scholars. This edition is not only a resource on history itself but a measure of how the discipline has changed over the past generation. While Boyer's work continues to include entries on great people and politics, it also presents topics as diverse as the environment and the Human Genome Project and individuals as varied as Black Elk and Bill Gates. This especially user-friendly work is arranged alphabetically, with numerous cross references and an extensive index. The entries are highly readable, and most have a short bibliography. The only challenge some will find in using this work is reading the small typeface. Otherwise, this is an excellent selection for both public and academic libraries. Highly recommended. Daniel Liestman, Kansas State Univ. Libs., Manhattan
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford Companions
  • Hardcover: 984 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (July 4, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195082095
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195082098
  • Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 2.5 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #758,773 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

89 of 105 people found the following review helpful By Biblio-Nut on July 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Students and history buffs need a good, comprehensive volume on the significant people, events, movements and changes in the United States over the course of its history. This volume, from the leading publisher of reference books in the English language, fails and disappoints with regard to these goals. This Oxford Companion tries to be the United States History of Everything, as a result it misses key aspects of political history and what it does cover is often inadequate and incomplete.
The Companion tries to cover too many aspects of cultural history and its icons. As a result it sacrifices information on many important political and public figures. We get biographies of Michael Jordan and Marilyn Monroe but no separate bios of George Mason, William Borah, Hiram Johnson, Henry Cabot Lodge, Tom Watson, Joseph Cannon, Thomas Dewey, Nelson Rockefeller, Clarence Darrow, Sam Rayburn, Jesse Jackson -- and the list goes on and on. When they are covered it is often in snipets in subject area articles, which does not give a complete overview of their public careers.
What it does cover in cultural and intellectual history is often incomplete. The Companion has separate artices on the history of the blues, jazz and a weak article on rural country and folk music, but absolutely nothing on bluegrass or commercial country music and its pioneers. The index doesn't even mention the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Bill Monroe or Hank Williams. Yet country music far exceeds both the blues and jazz in popularity in terms of its fan base and are certainly deserving popular art forms for inclusion.
The selection of significant figures for separate biographies is often strange and arbitrary.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Dr. John J. Obrien on August 7, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This volume contains entries that deal with concepts, events, persons, and movements in u.s. history. The length of the entries is appropriate to the topic considered. In addition, the entires both inform the reader with up-to-date information and indicate how revisionist historians have resahped opionions or refocused the discipline. The entries are clearly written and eminently readable. They are persuasive in thier opionions, yet respectful of other stances. The cross references are helpful and ample. The same obtains for the bibliographies. The Oxford Companion to U.S. History far surpasses some other contemporary dictionaries in U.S. history. Its articles are treated in more depth and greater nuances. The entries in the other dictionaries are too short and far too superficial. I would highly recommend this for people involved in serious historical study and research. The price, especially the discounted one offered by, is well worth the investment for scholars,libraries, and families.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Tim Bajer on June 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book is a must have for anyone with an interest in American History. It gives a clear, concise explanation on most important aspects of the United States history and the history of the lands that would eventually become the United States. The most unique aspect of this book is that, unlike a school textbook, it explains a topics role throughout the history of the United States in on section. In other words, if you looked up Civil Rights, you would find a history of Civil Rights in America from the colonial period to present. All the background information you would need would be in one place, not scattered throughout the book. This is beneficial for teachers who need to quickly find some basic information to answer a student's question, or for a student who needs to quickly brush up on a topic. This is a work that I will definetly use for years to come.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Marco Buendia on November 21, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This "companion" has turned out to be less usable than I had hoped. Perhaps I can blame only myself; I wanted a "dictionary", or even an "encyclopedia", not a companion, though there is a similar and similarly-titled volume for British History from Oxford; that book is generally satisfactory. To be sure, there's quite a lot of information in this fat single-volume work on the USA as well, but it can be difficult to find it, and some of it just isn't there.

The articles tend to be long involved essays. I'm in no position to argue their validity, as scholarship, but I want short, to the point articles. I tend to use a book like this for reference when reading popular writing by established scholars, and I'll leave the ruminations to my current author; it's not the place of a single-volume handbook. Rather like the New York Times exceeding its bounds with its long "in-depth" articles when I just want the facts of the matter, in so far as they can be ascertained and presented. This has nothing to do with ideology; a newspaper is something different from a specialist magazine, or even a news magazine. The same goes for a handbook of history.

Remedy might be sought in the Index. Alas, the Index enumerates mentions, but offers no guidance as to where the bulk of the info may be found, unless there's actually a headworded article for the matter. Sometimes there *isn't* anything substantial.

Garraty and Foner's Readers Guide to US History frequently offered convenient articles that told me what I wanted to know.
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