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Pivotal Decades: The United States, 1900-1920 [Paperback]

John Milton Cooper Jr.
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 17, 1990 0393956555 978-0393956559 Reprint

Contemporary American began in the first two decades of this century.

These were the years in which two of our greatest presidents—Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson—transformed the office into the center of power; in which the United States entered the world stage and fought its first overseas war; in which the government's proper role in the economy became a public question; and in which reform became an imperative for muckraking reporters, progressive politicians, social activists, and writers.

It was a golden age in American politics, when fundamental ideas were given compelling expression by thoughtful candidates. It was a trying time, however, for many Americans, including women who fought for the vote, blacks who began organizing to secure their rights, and activists on the Left who lost theirs in the first Red Scare of the century.

John Cooper's panoramic history of this period shows us where we came from and sheds light on where we are.

Frequently Bought Together

Pivotal Decades: The United States, 1900-1920 + Liberalism and Its Challengers:  From F.D.R. to Bush + Restless Giant: The United States from Watergate to Bush v. Gore (Oxford History of the United States)
Price for all three: $86.81

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a richly textured narrative, Cooper describes political, economic, social and diplomatic developments in the United States during the first two decades of the century, an era dominated by two dynamic presidents: Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. The period witnessed America's involvement in WW I, the building of the Panama Canal, the invention of the airplane and the radio, mass production of automobiles, the first civil rights organizations, women's suffrage, the inauguration of income tax, and the emergence of mass journalism, professional sports and movie stars. Cooper ( The Warrior and the Priest ) delineates the opposing stands taken by major political parties on economic and social issues, and traces the prolonged debate over international activism versus isolationism. Illustrated.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.


“A superb study, capturing the light and shade of the early twentieth century. . . . The quiet unobtrusive scholarship provides a mature compelling view of the Progressive years. Cooper's flowing text presents an integrated and persuasively complex picture of the period. . . . Masterfuly captures the ironies, subtleties, and characters.” (Bernard Aspinwall - History)

Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (September 17, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393956555
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393956559
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #237,365 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Milton Cooper, Jr., is professor of history at the University of Wisconsin. He is the author of Breaking the Heart of the World: Wilson and the Fight for the League of Nations and The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt, among other books. He was recently a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
This is one of the best written books I have ever read. Professor Cooper's writing is concise and easy to read, which is an extraordinary achievement considering the enormous amount of information packed into this medium-to-small sized book. You will learn much, yet the book is a quick-paced joy to read. More history should be written like this.

The book has many pictures and other visual aids, such as maps and newspaper headlines, to help bring the story to life. It succeeds marvelously. I believe this to be the best single-volume book on the Progressive Era, beginning at the end of the Gilded Age, through World War I, to the start of the roaring twenties. An enormous amount of fascinating history takes place during that era with many fascinating characters, such as Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Fighting Bob LaFollette, William Jennings Bryant, the suffragists, the religious crusaders to solve social ills, and the Gilded Age capitalists. Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson are featured most prominantly. Indeed, the author also wrote an outstanding biography of Roosevelt and Wilson called "The Warrior and the Priest." This book can also be considered a concise and excellent biography of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.

The story begins during the late Gilded Age, when America was a bustling industrial superpower. Great capitalists of the era, such as Morgan and Rockefeller, enter the story. You get a balanced portrait of the economy that employed many people and created progress but had a harsh side to to it. You learn about the Muckraker reporters who uncovered scandals and the rise of socialists among the working class, although they never gained much power.

You briefly learn what America was like at that time of great change.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Tide of the Century March 16, 2000
These years at the beginning of the century seemed so intense. A good read when reviewing this century that (almost) was. The author tries to write a comprehensive look at everything that was happening in the US at the time, from fashion to politics. However, make no mistake, the author's favorite topic and more richly covered is: politics. There are references at the end on the amazing amount of literary work of the era, which is tantamount. All in all, a very good introductory to that time and age, and a very good starting point for a researcher in the world of those years.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read and informative January 23, 2003
I liked this book. It details the history of the USA in pretty sensible chronological order from 1900 to 1920, with good description of the events during those momentous decades. It is pretty balanced, and should not offend anyone with biases one way or the other. The author is an authority on the two dominating figures of those decades, Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt, and I read his dual study, The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt, on October 7, 1995, with much appreciation. Cooper writes in a clear style, and even tho this book read like a college textbook, hey, it is fun to read a college textbook on such interesting subjects as this book deals with. A good and worthwhile book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-organized and an enjoyable read October 18, 2000
I had to read this book for my US History,1914-1945 class, and I have to admit, I am quite pleased with it. It was well-organized and gives an in-depth look into the Roosevelt and Wilson presidencies. This book is a must for anyone interested in 20th-century American history.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Book May 17, 2001
I was required to read this book (it reads like a textbook)for an American history class I was taking in my sophomore year, and I love the book. Cooper integrated various facets (political, social, military, and cultural history) into a solid and interesting read. It can be a little dense at times, but it is a very good beginning for those interested in twentieth-century American history.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Link Between Oxford Volumes June 20, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Pivotal Decades along with Perils of Prosperity, provide a large part of the missing links in the Oxford History of The United States series. Readers who enjoy the Oxford series will likely be pleased with Pivotal Decades.
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