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Two Americans: Truman, Eisenhower, and a Dangerous World Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 10, 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Absorbing . . . a historical double-decker. . . . Miller develops [Truman and Eisenhower’s] often uncomfortable, but unavoidable relationship with rich context and resonance.”
The Star-Ledger 

“Deft. . . . Insightful. . . . This is a book for those who enjoy history and cherish its ironies. . . . William Lee Miller is a scholar with a light-handed style as anecdotal as it is academic. He keeps his subjects off pedestals and firmly grounded as he relates the momentous events that confronted them and how each rose in stature to respond, for they were two surprisingly ordinary men. . . . Miller delights in telling stories. . . . Stories told affectionately with insight and sensitivity, messages ringing with relevance for us today.”
Washington Independent Review of Books

“Intriguing. . . . Miller is keen analyzing both politics and policy; he frequently turns a deft phrase. . . . Two Americans admirably succeeds in conveying [Truman and Eisenhower’s] probity and patriotism.”

“An enthralling book.”
—History Book Club

“A rewarding study. . . . Miller aptly and in clear prose describes the rise of both men and outlines their policies as president."
Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains

“Miller offers lively, well-presented parallel biographies. . . . The author is primarily interested in comparing the experiences of these two men as they rose through the ranks of their chosen professions, and their approaches to government as exemplified by several specific issues. . . . Entertaining reading for presidential-history buffs.”
Kirkus Reviews

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About the Author

WILLIAM LEE MILLER, Scholar in Ethics and Institutions at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia, has taught at Yale, Smith College, and Indiana University. His previous books include Arguing About Slavery, Lincoln's Virtues, and President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1St Edition edition (April 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307595641
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307595645
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.6 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,014,225 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Harry Truman (1884 --- 1972) served as the Democratic 33d president of the United States from 1945 -- 1953 while Dwight Eisenhower (1890 -- 1969) served as a Republican as the 34th president from 1953 -- 1961. Both leaders had many similarities and many differences. Both played critical roles in the tumultuous period following WW II and, of course particularly in Eisenhower's case, in the War itself. William Lee Miller's new book, "Two Americans: Truman, Eisenhower, and a Dangerous World" (2012) is a parallel biography of these two leaders and their era. Miller is Scholar in Ethics and Institutions at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia. He writes generally about earlier periods of American history, including two books about Lincoln and a study of John Quincy Adams and the "gag" rule. In this book, as in his earlier works, Miller concentrates on ethical issues in political affairs. The book would have benefitted from a more detailed introduction and statement of the author's purpose. Miller writes:

"This book is a brief narrative of the careers of [Truman and Eisenhower]. Part of the reason I chose to interweave their stories is to compare and contrast these men, in their relationships to the great issues with which they dealt and to each other (they came to have a considerable antagonism, as we shall see; their interaction is an interesting part of the story.) Another reason for telling their story jointly is that, together, their careers reveal central aspects of American culture at crucial moments in history. Both were president at times that required important national decisions."

In their early years, Truman's and Eisenhower's paths did not cross, but their lives were somewhat parallel.
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Format: Hardcover
What is interesting about this book is how it chronicles the simple beginnings of two men who held the highest office in the land during consecutive terms at a most pivotal time in world history when the infancy of military nuclear weaponry was under their direct ownership of responsibility. Their backgrounds are socially and economically similar in some sense, yet ideologically diverse.

This book's intent is not to make a direct comparison of Truman and Eisenhower, but rather to unfold events that transpired during their lifetimes and how those events influenced them and molded them and how eventually each man would come into increasing power and responsibility and impact through their legacy history, the nation and world events.

I like this approach. If you lived, grew up in or were intimately connected to the era when these men rose to global prominence, they almost seem like they operated on parallel planes of the same universe, yet their actions had a singular impact on the national and world scene. They were two men of humble beginnings thrust into a world of global conflict, increasing scientific advancement and the responsibility to do the right thing for the better of all mankind. This is a very interesting book, without having to weigh in on one side or another on any political slant. And I like the cover, too.
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Format: Hardcover
I am a very big fan of William Lee Miller's previous books, and picked up this more on the strength of his name than of the two subjects of this dual biography. While I enjoyed this, and recommend it, I have to admit it is not up to his treatments of Lincoln, and in Arguing About Slavery, John Quincy Adams.

This present volume offers less of the dense, heavily intellectual, moral insight that characterizes his works on the 19th century. The footnotes and bibliographical information provided here are much less thorough than one expects from a scholar of Prof. Miller's stature. In a note on sources, Miller attributres this in part to "the complications of life,".

The earliest sections of the book detail seperately the youth and rise to power of Truman and Eisenhower. To me, the Truman sections seemed derivative of David McCullough's massive biography. These sections are entertaining enough, but the paths of the two men don't actually cross until World War II, when Truman makes a national reputation investigating waste in war supplies contracts and Eisenhower of course leads the assualt on Normandy. This would seem to be a great opportunity for Miller to compare and contrast, but frankly he is not much of a military historian.

The books does not really rise to the level of Miller's previous work until about the midpoint of the book, with a chapter on the containment policy, that became the cornerstone of American policy toward the Soviet Union for genrations. It is as if Miller as a writer, needs to focus on a complicated policy issues before he becomes fully engaged. Once Truman and then Eisenhower,reach the White Hosue, the book becomes much stronger and more insightful.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
To me "Two Americans" is a great read. I cannot remember another history book which contained the amount of detail regarding Mr. Truman as well as General Eisenhower. The author has written a very readable book, one which is hard to put down. The humorous references throughout help to bring both Mr. Truman and General Eisenhower more into focus as individuals. I will think it a crime of todays generation passes this book up. The book should be a part of any American history course.
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