- Series: Oxford History of the United States (Book 10)
- Hardcover: 880 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Edition edition (April 18, 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 019507680X
- ISBN-13: 978-0195076806
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 2.4 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 53 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #475,220 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974 (Oxford History of the United States) First Edition Edition
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Part of the multivolume Oxford History of the United States, Grand Expectations spotlights the United States at the center of the international stage during the post World War II years. The book opens on country very different from the U.S. of today--racial segregation was law and more than half the nation's farm dwellings had no electricity. With England, Germany, and Japan ravaged by war, the U.S. entered a period of prosperity that soared to unimaginable heights in the 1960s. Though Patterson ends his book with the downfall of Nixon and the beginnings of a troubled economy, he concludes that the U.S. in 1974, "remained one of the most stable societies in the world."
From Publishers Weekly
In a continuously challenging, stirring history of postwar America, Brown University history professor Patterson charts Americans' ever-widening postwar expectations about the capacity of the U.S. to create abundance and opportunity. Spurred by the civil rights movement's egalitarianism and idealism, many groups?including labor unions, feminists, Native and Hispanic Americans, farm organizations, the poor and the elderly?engaged in a "rights evolution" that peaked in the mid-1980s amid political backlash, economic stagnation and barriers of class and prejudice. A corollary theme is the souring of the widespread belief that the U.S. had the economic and military means to control the behavior of other nations. Bursting with shrewd analyses and fresh assessments of people and events (McCarthyism, the Beats, the growth of suburbia, Vietnam, etc.), Patterson's primarily political but also cultural and social history gores both liberal and conservative sacred cows. He blames John F. Kennedy's personal approach to foreign affairs for escalating tension with the Soviet Union. And he describes Nixon as "a very humorless, tightly controlled man" who set the FBI to destroy the Black Panthers and who "put in 12- to 16-hour days, in part because he was unable to delegate authority."
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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The book is a fabulous compilation of the various types of history the US went through in this time. The emerging field of social history is on full display in the book which manages to add to the complexity of the true story of this time period. The ugly clash of conservatism versus liberalist is shockingly apparent as well as the realization that both parties used communism and dissension as weapons against each other. However, as the country began to develop a conscience over the concept of equality, the forces split on the issue with both parties undergoing a transformation in the 1960-70 years which would result in the Reagan conservatism of the 1980s and beyond.
Patterson shines with his explanation of the Civil Rights movement and doesn’t pull punches as he describes the brutality of southern whites in suppressing the civil rights of the black minority. The sheer ugliness of one group of people using violence to deny equality to another is vivid. He also covered the insanity of the anti-communism years as both parties used Red Scare tactics to rally party faithful in their platforms. Later he would detail how this fear factor would move headlong into standard GOP political tactics in his sequel to Grand Expectations; Restless Giant.
All in all, the book is a good and detailed explanation of how America moved during these years and fell into the morass known as Vietnam over time. In the process the country finds the rest of the world catching up economically and politically in many ways while America battled its own internal demons. The twin forces of egalitarianism and liberty are shown in their full panoramic view for it was during this time that equality for all truly began to be realized after its budding beginning in the American Revolution.
It is definitely a worthy inclusion in the Oxford series and one most historians will want on their shelves. It is useable in many classes covering the period, especially the survey classes or any other ones that need information from the period. I use it in my own American film history class as context material for the students. The result is historical information meant to be read by any level of adult audience interested in American history.
"Grand Expectations" explores events from 1945 -- when the U.S. was unquestionably 'top country' -- to Watergate, when the country seemed to many to be coming undone. Patterson examines the period from several perspectives. Certainly, he explores domestic and international political patterns, but also goes into cultural and economic trends. This makes it a richer and more nuanced work than many standard histories, which are too often political narratives of who did what to whom. Not that Patternson is short on who and whom. His political portraits are vivid and often show how leaders' personalities interacted with events to produce specific outcomes. Patterson's discussion of Lyndon Johnson's policies brings out what some might consider the tragedy of Ol' Lyndon,, while his discussion of the Nixon/Eisenhower relationship almost made me sympathize with Tricky Dick. He gives the struggle for civil rights its rightful place, putting it at the center of the changes that overtook America in the 1960's, as the key instance of the "rights revolution" that affected so many areas of American life.
In a work with so wide a scope, some readers may well feel that some themes, or events, or personalities have been short-changed. And in a work which clearly strives for balance. some may feel that the approach on certain still-contentious issues is too tepid. Overall, however, this book provides a compelling narrative of a critical period. And those who lived through the period may find it particularly interesting. Several times in reading this book, I had "ah-ha!" moments -- so that's what was really going on!