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Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974 (Oxford History of the United States) Revised ed. Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195117974
ISBN-10: 0195117972
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford History of the United States (Book 10)
  • Paperback: 829 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Revised ed. edition (November 20, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195117972
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195117974
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 2.1 x 6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #94,465 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on July 30, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The fascinating difference in Brown history professor James T. Patterson's approach to the twenty years after the end of World War Two is in his daring to approach the subject thematically rather than chronologically, which gives both cause for celebration as well as some moments of frustration. While this excellent, literate, and quite readable book is intended for a general audience as an integral part of the so far impeccable Oxford History of the United States series of monographs, including such notable others as the outstanding recent "Freedom From Fear" by Stanford professor David Kennedy (see my review of it), it is not, in my view, a book for the uninitiated or novice history buff.
This much said in way of qualification, I found it to be a wonderful and scholarly book, organized quite usefully and thematically along several critical historical issues unfolding during this time. First, it covers the rise of civil rights consciousness and the subsequent struggle for equality by American minorities; second, it describes in detail the historical phenomenon of the cold war and its concomitant policies and its consequences for Americans in graphic social, economic and political terms; and finally, it explains how the changing demographic composition of the country in both geographic and economic terms changed the nature of economic and political life in America.
All of this is seen through the prism of a change of unequalled economic prosperity and growing disparities between the affluent and those the economic engine driving the country left behind. At the end of WWII, many in this country foresaw a time of burgeoning opportunities and unequalled economic, social, and political growth and movement toward the great American society.
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Format: Paperback
Grand Expectations is one of the best books on American History that I have read. A very worthy addition to the "Oxford History of the United States" series, it is a judicious account of the fascinating period from the end of WWII to Nixon's resignation in 1974. My only criticism is that the years 1969 -74 were not covered in the same depth and breadth as the earlier years.
Patterson not only deftly illuminates his main cultural theme - the "Grand Expectations" which the American people experienced during this period - but also the curious mixture of supreme self confidence coupled with a nagging insecurity about the "communist menace", and finally, the slow erosion of that confidence following the assassination of the Kennedy's & King, and the debacle of Viet Nam.
Patterson's integration of description and analysis is seamless, his depiction of the events and people is acute, and his notes are a goldmine of sources of further reading.
The book is recommended to anyone with an interest in this era.
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Format: Paperback
James Patterson has assembled the most comprehensive survey of contemporary American history. With the Cold War as the backdrop, he guides the reader through a tumultuous period that took in two wars and the Civil Rights movement. He amply describes the nature of these conflicts and the impact they had on American society. The leading figures are brought into focus, as well as the crucial events of the periods such as the Cuban Missile Crisis. He weaves in a wide variety of cultural issues such as religion, noting how it has influenced successive administrations. He ends the period with the downfall of Nixon, who appears throughout the book from his involvement in the House anti-American investigations, to his vice-presidency under Eisenhower to his subsequent presidency. It is a well-rounded account and a wonderful addition to the Oxford History of the United States.
What was most interesting to me was the powerful influence religion had on our society and the conflicts that arose during the Civil Rights movement and the Age of Aquarius. Patterson noted that Americans remained the most devoted church-goers throughout the troublesome 60's. The church became the rallying point of the Civil Rights movement, and also served as the bastion of white supremacy. Such contradictions made for volatile conflicts as each side felt it had the moral upper hand. The seemingly all-pervasive drug culture may have captured the public's imagination, but by and large America remained a nation of social conservatives.
Patterson provides good overviews of the Korean and Vietnam wars, tying them into the ideology of the Cold War. He shows the seamless pattern that ran through these conflicts, as well as other conflicts in which the US found itself embroiled in during its effort to defeat communism.
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By A Customer on January 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
The first two volumes of the Oxford History of the United States synthesized recent scholarly research into readable, even exciting narratives, arranged chronologically to tell the story of their periods. For this volume, author Patterson has made the decision to organize his book thematically rather chronologically. In my opinion, this decision was nothing short of a disaster, because the structure ensures that no narrative momentum or continuity is established.
The book reads like a series of monographs. But they are not scholarly monographs, since the sources are exclusively secondary (even when prominent public figures are quoted and the original sources would be child's play to locate). The first two volumes of the series were scholarly works in the form of popular storytelling. What we have here is the opposite -- a rehash in the form of academic research. It doesn't help that Patterson's political discussions rarely go deeper than a Time magazine article.
Compared to Battle Cry of Freedom or The Glorious Cause, this book is a nearly total failure. Still, it's much better than most academic history in that it presents a fair amount of information without shaving the facts into evidence to support some narrow little argument, it totally avoids jargon, and there's no score-settling with academic enemies. So it gets two stars on the basis that it could have been worse -- it could have been like most of the stuff produced by our history departments.
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