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A Conspiracy So Immense: The World of Joe McCarthy

4.4 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195154245
ISBN-10: 019515424X
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A staggeringly successful and rare new book of history... It is hard to tell in the space of this column why A Conspiracy So Immense impressed me so much. Of course, it has something to do with the excellent writing, which may set a standard for crisp, witty historical prose... It has something to do with the extraordinary thoroughness of Oshinsky's research. His footnotes are historical gold mines. [Above all] Oshinsky shows that in that evil time, even the purest of motives were soiled. He shows us what man is. That is what makes great history, which is what A Conspiracy So Immense is."--Ben Stein, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner

"[Oshinsky is] a great storyteller; he has done some terrific research, and best of all, he knows how to handle the drama of the era without getting too preachy."--The New York Times Book Review

"Oshinsky's elegant and comprehensive biographycan now lay its own claim to being the finest account available of Joe McCarthy's career."--Review in American History

"The objectivity and scholarship of A Conspiracy so Immense should make it a standard treatmenta vivid account of the Senator's progress from demagogue to grand inquisitor."--The New Leader

"Professor David Oshinsky's A Conspiracy So Immense is the finest book on the period I have read."-Patrick J. Buchanan

About the Author


David Oshinsky is George Littlefield Professor of American History at the University of Texas. His previous books include Worse than Slavery: Parchman farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow, which won the Robert Kennedy prize for its contribution to human rights, and Polio: An American Story (Oxford University Press).
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (September 29, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019515424X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195154245
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1.7 x 6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #942,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One of the most fascinating, dense, detailed, and fair-minded accounts of the life and political career of America's greatest demagogue ever written. I ordered this book after a friend lent me another book by Oshinsky (on Polio) which was also riveting. If political turmoil of the '50s is a topic that intrigues you as it does me, you'll find this very rewarding reading. I would have given it five stars except for the terrible typography. The book appears to have been badly photo-copied, perhaps from the original hardcover edition. The wavy, indistinct type in this book is a genuine deal-breaker -- it actually distracts your attention from the amazing story of McCarthy and his cronies. I am appalled that the publisher, Oxford University Press, would accord a book of this quality such shoddy production. Shame on you.
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Format: Paperback
Historian David Oshinsky, Professor of History at Rutgers University, does a masterful job in chronicling the life and times of one the most controversial political figures in our history. Oshinsky, an excellent story teller, allows the narrative to unfold in an unforced way, combining breazy prose with an excellent command of facts, thus allowing the drama of the McCarthy era to unwind naturally. Unlike most chroniclers of the early cold war -- and in particular, McCarthy biographers -- Oshinsky takes the time to examine McCarthy's childhood and rise to prominense with an unbiased eye. He notes that McCarthy was an excellent student, finishing four years in high school in one year; an industrious and indefatigable worker, helping his parents tend to the family farm while also starting his own poultry business; and a caring and warm person, liked by the town folk and respected by community leaders. McCarthy, however, also had competitive streak -- a win at anything cost mentality -- according to the author. In a given environment, such as campus politics, he was often daring, brutal and unforgiving -- completely focused on the task at hand. Oshinsky recites the story where McCarthy, in his final year of college, ran for class president. Prior to election day, McCarthy and his opponent agreed to vote for the other fellow, thus keeping the election friendly. McCarthy, however, after learning the election was a dead heat, changed his vote, telling his opponent that "the best man should win." Oshinsky notes that McCarthy could be both ruthless and caring; one moment, stealing an election, and the next, caring for a needy friend. This trait, writes Oshinsky, would run like an ubroken line throughout McCarthy's career.Read more ›
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As a teenager, I followed the events of the McCarthy era. I learned details about the senator that weren't published in the press at that time. It was a period when the media didn't pry into personal matters. Oshinsky unveils a misdirected, selfish man, whose baseless, wild claims harmed innocent people.
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Format: Paperback
Oshinsky gives the most complete review of McCarthy's life of any historian. He tries to appraise McCarthy's controveries and does not take part in the vicious name calling of a Ricahrd Rovere. However he comes from a liberal perspective and to get a fair appraisal from a conservative historian - read Hermann's McCarthy.

Since Venona has been released Oshinshy should have rewritten this book and not reissued the book he wrote in 1982.The events of 9/11 can give us an analogy.

Imagine if a professor advised the state department that the Taliban was the best hope for Afghanistan and that bin Ladin was just an agrarian reformer. Imagine if military secrets as the H bomb was given to Iran and that key government officials belonged to Islamist groups. Imagine if a senator would look at the aspects of that ? Would he be called intolerate of other religions ?

Owen lattimore urged that Mao was an Agrarian reformer. Mao killed millions. Larrimore made millions of bucks on his 'brilliant" observations. Oshinsky shouldn't defend this man. Klaus Fuchs, Rosenbergs, Hall etc gave the bomb to Russia. Hiss helped shape our foreign policy and even gave Russia three votes in the General Assembly.

So balance is really needed. McCarthy was a patriotic man who used bad means to an end. But his enemies sometimes used worse methods as Oshinsky demonstrates in the Joseph Rauh case and Eisenhower's minions forging letters.

McCarthy was brought down by Roy Cohn wanting favorable treatment for a possible lover- David Schine but curiously Oshinsky does not update the book with Cohn's sexuality and this would be an important insight.

In short this was a brilliant book for 1982 but the newer revelations as Venona , Cohn etc demands an update for this book
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This book presents a more favorable picture of McCarthy than I might have expected from some of the reviews. I found it well balanced and even though it was the third or fourth book I have read that dealt with McCarthy, I learned new things about the era in which his Senate career took place and the politics of the time, as well as about the man himself.
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Joe McCarthy is one of the most dangerous politicians to have ever surfaced in modern American politics. In my opinion, the roots to our decision to engage in the Korean War and Vietnam War can be traced back to McCarthy's demagoguery over Democrats being "soft on Communism" and "losing China". Democrats spent decades running from these labels. Today, clever politicians are pummeling their enemies with this same diatribe, shifting it to "soft on terrorism." We should be seeking strong leaders, who are pragmatic and make decisions based on facts and analysis. But due to the success of McCarthy's attacks, foreign policy decision making still seems to be based on proving America is run by tough guys who are determined to show the world we enjoy a good fight. McCarthyism cost America a great deal in the past and is toxic to our future. We did not seem to learn anything from McCarthy's downfall. I see shadows of McCarthyism every time a politician explains the mess in Middle East.
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