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An overview of American History
on August 13, 2009
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.