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Freedom Just Around the Corner: A New American History: 1585-1828 Paperback – April 5, 2005
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Top Customer Reviews
Where the tendency of American historians has been to find One Big Peg on which to hang their histories, McDougall pitches a big tent and tries hard to fit everybody under it. He works hard to tell the whole story without trying to shape it to lead to a particular moral.
For example, McDougall's approach to America's Christian roots. He doesn't try to minimize them and pretend that they weren't really there or didn't really matter, but neither does he try to elevate them into a thesis about Americans being God's Chosen People. He acknowledges them and presents them thoroughly without trying to shape them to prove something.
If McDougall has a point of view, it is that of a mild cynic. His one thesis is that Americans have always been hustlers in both senses of the word-- hard workers and scammers. This gives the work a tendency to shy away from Big Deep Ideas and philosophical cant. Where many historians have tried to layer American history in fancy clothes (This cigar is really a symbol of the repressed oppression of growing economic anti-humanistic struggling), this book leaves the impression of a more direct view (This is a cigar).
Beyond that, most of his organizational tools are about analysis rather than interpretation. His language is relaxed, cleasr and sometimes even colloquial, and his reach is considerable. There's a great deal of information here, but explained and organized so that the reader comes away with a clear view of a large picture.
If I were a high school history teacher, I'd be begging for sets of this book to teach from. A great and clear read.
The book is built around the central thesis that "America is a nation of hustlers". McDougall's central insight proves to be fresh and interesting enough to carry subject matter that has (as the author admits) been covered many times before.
His sythesis of recent scholarship in the field of American History is top notch, and the notes alone make the book worth the cover price. Interested readers will find hundreds of jumping off points for further exploration in the field of merican history.
McDougall is cognizant of the diversity of "histories" which have multiplied in recent years. He includes citations to and summaries of gender and ethnic histories that demonstrate his familiarity with recent scholarship.
At the same time, he drops footnotes lauding Huntington (a historian favored by conservatives) and certainly doesn't shy away from the "great man" school of scholarship.
I especially enjoyed the treatment of the links between intellectual history in Britain in the pre-revolutinary era with the developments in America leading up to the revolution.
On the whole, this is a balanced, nuanced reading of American history and I anticipate the next chapter(this is projected to be a three volume set).
Not that America doesn't have its fair share of contradictions and hypocrisies, as McDougall generously points out. No, this is no gilded history, with perfect Founding Fathers and benevolent leaders. It is a very honest history, that makes the reader reflect upon themselves and ask "Am I a hustler?"
It is a fun and entertaining read, but it assumes that the reader knows a little something about American and world history. Therefore, it is not a "History for Dummies". The only minor annoyance I have with the book is McDougall's liberal sprinkling throughout the text of Latin and French phrases with no translation. It is assumed that the reader can decipher these phrases, and they present themselves at critical times in the discussion, especially when McDougall is seeking to make a clinching or final point about an event or issue. Some of his most important points, therefore, might be "lost in translation" as the reader trys to figure out what the phrase means, but instead gives up and moves on. Personally, I've always thought that writers who use unfamiliar phrases and words are just showing off and acting superior (George F. Will comes to mind).Read more ›
It is refreshing to find a bold central thesis to such a sweeping historical account. This is not a textbook regurgitation of well worn historical fact. In this book you will enjoy an articuate perspective of the unique character of American ingenuity woven through a narrative of the major figures and milestones of our nation's history.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
After re-readking it a second time, it's nothing to write hope about, frankly.Published 13 months ago by Stuart Davis
There are ways to do books on the early years of American history & then there are ways not to. Walter A. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Paul L.
Amazing American history. McDougall is a great Historian, and a great story teller. Rich detail, and an exceptionally insightful thesis and approach to reviewing familiar and... Read morePublished on November 30, 2013 by Michael Harty
The caption above says it all...I love history and this re-packaging, offers a wonderfully different perspective.
I did not learn much new "stuff". Read more
Fast disappearing under Obama and the Liberal Left! I worry for the freest nation on earth. Either use it, or lose it!Published on July 11, 2013 by Dr. D
This is the best history written of the United States. Period.
The writing is crisp and entertaining. Read more
I've read a lot of different history books, and I would say this is my favorite. This book truly brought to life this huge span of American history for me. Read morePublished on January 26, 2012 by Tim Knight
I love this author. As a former history teacher, I think his view of American history is refreshing. The used price was good and the delivery was quick. Read morePublished on April 3, 2011 by RJR
Mr. McDougall delivers a vigorous and illustrative American history. His use of themes for each chapter (eg, Barbadians, Yorkers, and Quakers and Germans, and Four Sorts of... Read morePublished on March 1, 2010 by J. Scott Shipman