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Starred Review. Past performance may not guarantee future returns, but it's the best we have to go on, contends this lively meditation on American history. Looking back from the tumultuous 2008 election campaign, historian Schama (NBCC-award winner for Rough Crossings) ponders four themes in American history as they played out in the lives of historical figures: the tension between militarism and liberty in the careers of Civil War general Montgomery Meigs and his family; the progressive influence of evangelical Protestantism on abolitionist and civil rights crusaders; America's conflicted attitudes toward immigrants as seen through the adventures of 18th-century French émigré J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur; and Americans' profligate exploitation of the land and water in an elegy for the Cherokee tribe. Schama's wide-ranging narratives wander between contemporary reportage (For a minute or two after the photo op, George Bush was left to his own devices and came my way) and fluent, richly literate history. He's alive to irony and hypocrisy in the American story—Mexicans of the 1820s, he notes, shuddered at the uncouth Yankee immigrants flooding into Texas—but Schama is optimistic that the nation's perennial openness and complexity can see it through the storm clouds ahead. (June)
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As the adaptation of a television series, The American Future treads a fine line between history and a kind of quick-cut shorthand that tries to neatly define the virtues of America and Americans (the Miami Herald deemed the genre the "Earnest Television Spinoff"). Simon Schama, a shrewd and experienced scholar, writer, and commentator, makes his points clearly (the biographical sketches, particularly of lesser-known figures such as the Meigses, an 18th- and 19th-century military family, can be affecting) and chooses his examples well. Still, some readers may be put off by the author's apparent lack of objectivity and a tendency to underdeliver in making any substantive predictions based on his reading of history.See all Editorial Reviews
Very good and highly illuminating political book. As a new American resident, the book is very educative certainly. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Bayus
Really readable history book, spanning a wide range of time zones - linking them all. I picked up other Schama books after enjoying this one.Published 15 months ago by John D. Burke
Very well-written and brought a lot of information to my attention that I did not learn in "school. Read morePublished on September 8, 2013 by btw3073
Simon Schama's book is a really interesting one to read. It has such strength in its message, such lucidity in the examples, and such a formidable intellectual background that it... Read morePublished on May 20, 2012 by Heikki Hietala
I bought this book because there's a lot about the Meigs family in America, from whom I am descended. Read morePublished on August 13, 2011 by Susan T. Pohlmann
Like someone said in a review here, the author is an excellent art historian. As a general historian he's a total failure. Read morePublished on July 17, 2011 by oortcloud
If you're on the extreme left wing you'll love this book. The first sentence tells us American democracy came back from the dead in 2008. That'll give you the idea. Read morePublished on November 7, 2010 by Joost Vas Dias
The American Future is an absolutely fascinating look at America's past through modern eyes. The premise is: by observing how America responded to a myriad of different situations... Read morePublished on September 11, 2010 by missed