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Restless Giant: The United States from Watergate to Bush v. Gore (Oxford History of the United States) Paperback – March 5, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The Brown University historian seamlessly melds the complexities of politics, economics, society and culture into a vibrant and accessible account of late twentieth century America. Patterson's analyses of standard historical fare, interwoven with nuanced observations on diverse issues such as family life, the personal computer revolution, the media and gay activism give this book its singular dynamism. Picking up where his last volume, Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974, left off, Patterson opens with Richard Nixon's resignation and plunges into a detailed discussion of "the nation's number one problem," race. Contemporary commentators viewed racial tensions, along with relaxed sexual mores, agitation for women's rights and burgeoning consumerism as symptomatic of the country's "moral decline," spurring organizations like Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority to advocate "pro-life, pro-family pro-morality, pro-American" views. By the late 1990s, media-exaggerated accounts of these "culture wars," had abated, Patterson says. Pop culture icons from Bill Cosby to Madonna and Jerry Seinfeld also populate these pages, but, predictably, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton tower over all. Patterson credits Reagan with "facilitating" the end of the Cold War, but diplomatically sidesteps whether he or Mikhail Gorbachev deserve the ultimate accolades. Although international conflicts distracted Clinton from the domestic policy-making he preferred, a sexual "tryst" led to his impeachment, threatening the "transcendent position in United States history" he sought. The author also touches on terrorism, beginning with the Iranian hostage crisis and culminating in the American intelligence community's knowledge that, by late 1998, radical Muslim terrorists "were considering... hijacking commercial airliners and crashing them into buildings." Rich in period details from the somber to frivolous, this is an invaluable guide to the end of an era.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"First-rate history by a first-rate historian... A splendid book that will come to be regarded as indispensable to everyone who cares about the history of this country."--Charles Peters, The New York Times Book Review

"This splendid and readable new book is the latest volume in that ambitious series, 'The Oxford History of the United States...' Patterson has risen magnificently to the task of describing and analyzing this rich and confused period... Restless Giant is extraordinarily sharp in its repeated references to and use of American popular culture... He is excellent in his coverage of the rise of the ultra-conservative right."--Paul Kennedy, Washington Post Book World

"Patterson is at his best in recreating the spirit and feel of presidential elections and the legislative and diplomatic achievements--as well as the scandals--of our nation's chief executives.... Patterson is a careful historian. Bending over backward to offer his readers a range of perspectives on the phenomena he explores, he appears to be a genuinely fair and balanced scholar.... For its thorough and reliable recounting of the period's main developments, 'Restless Giant' is well worth reading."--Eric Arnesen, Chicago Tribune

"Dazzling and erudite, the book thrums with the buzz of ideas coming together.... Detached, dispassionate, and drawn to detail, Patterson writes in taut, vivid language, and with illustrative examples on every page. He keeps his judgments terse and defensible."--David Greenberg, American Prospect

"Patterson is a fine historian.... Continuing where he ended his prior contribution to the series (Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974), Patterson again combines narrative and analysis in his assessment of an important era in U.S. history. The result is a good survey of the political, economic, foreign policy, social, and cultural trends and events during the presidencies of Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton.... For all libraries." --Library Journal

"A worthy addition to the highly acclaimed Oxford History of the United States series. A crisp, engaging narrative for readers seeking an easy grasp of the key developments at home and abroad during the last quarter of the 20th century. Patterson's balanced analysis of contending interpretations of these developments will be most useful to readers as they think critically about this recent era in American history."--Parameters

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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford History of the United States (Book 11)
  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (March 5, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195305221
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195305227
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 1.3 x 5.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,414 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
James T. Patterson's "Restless Giant", Volume 11 (and last chronologically) in the Oxford History of the United States puts an exclamation point on this gem of a series. Professor Patterson follows up on his own penultiate volume in the series, "Grand Expectations", with aplomb. David M. Kennedy, now the editor of the series, succeeding the late C. Vann Woodward, and himself the author of the antepenultimate volume, "Freedom from Fear", perhaps sums up the rationale for studying such recent history in his forward to this book: "It is often said that the history we know the least well is the history of our own time, particularly the decades immediately surrounding our own birth. Here (the readers) will find a cogent and compelling account of how history shaped the world they inherited . . . ".

Patterson does again what he does best and that is put history in the context of a multitude of definitionally overlapping diciplines. Covering the time period of 1974-2000, without the context of a Revolutionary War (as did Robert Middlekauff in "Glorious Cause"), the Civil War (James McPherson in "Battle Cry of Freedom"), and the Great Depression and WWII (Kennedy's Freedom from Fear) - all part of this series, is exceedingly well done and presented in a fashion that most historical narrative writers would find difficult to create. It is, hence, no surprise that Patterson was chosen to write two volumes here, both recent 20th Century history, without a linchpin on which to write around. He covers the period extraordinarily well and gives the reader a very balanced view of the many facets of our history over the last thirty years.

With this book only the 5th actually published in the series, I was quite happy to learn the following. Gordon S.
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Format: Paperback
When I first saw this on the shelf at the bookstore, my immediate thought was, "Isn't it kind of short?" That's the main problem here: too little detail to be a truly comprehensive, worthy contribution to the Oxford History series. The author seems to assume that most of the story is recent enough that it doesn't need to be explained in great detail.

Yes, Patterson mentions most things you'd want or expect. The problem is, it's often just a mention. As an example, he'll write, "Terms like 'leveraged buyout', 'junk bond', and 'corporate raider' became well-known." That's it; no more explanation than that. Why not a little more discussion of what these terms mean? The story of Nabisco/RJR is a great example that could be used to illustrate the point here, but it's not even mentioned. The 80s are infamous for this stuff; why do you think the film "Wall Street" was so well received? But that movie gets one sentence, instead of being unpacked and discussed. Not to mention stuff like "preppy culture", which isn't included. It's a huge lost opportunity for some first rate economic/social history. And it's minor, but while he's talking about the Japanese buying Rockefeller Center and Newsweek writing about "Japan taking over", why not include the Japanese collector who paid a then-record amount for Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" in 1987? It's just one more detail that could have been included but went missing.

Generation X gets literally a single reference, and it's only in context with the Millennial Generation, who really shouldn't be entering the story so soon (This history goes to the year 2000, and Millennials are usually defined as being born after 1982, so the first ones are only 18 at the book's cut off point. Save them for the next volume).
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Format: Hardcover
It is only when the history books are written that we begin to find out what really happened as opposed to reading/watching the day to day news stories in the paper/television.

This book by James Patterson, part of the Oxford history of the United States covers the years from Nixon's resignation (1974) to inauguration day 2001 when George W. Bush became President. The media tends to stress conflict. In actuality there is much less conflict than you might otherwise believe. The majority of Americans were less partisan, less attentive to political fighting than were the protestors, the politicians or the interest groups with causes to defend.

Through this quarter century, the Americans tended to elect the presidential candidate that they considered to be the most central, neither left nor right wing. Both political parties continued to be effective, holding about half of both houses of congress. The rights of racial and ethnic minorities, Catholics and Jews, the handicapped, senior citizens, women and gays all expanded. The economy expanded to have more Americans working than ever before.

This supurb book takes the immediacy out of the headlines and presents the history of our time in a well thought out, clear, and concise manner.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Oxford History of the United States series is an amazing endeavor. The purpose of this undertaking is to provide readers with an accessible summary of major historical works in the field in engaging narratives. Two books in the series have won the Pulitzer Prize; others have won a number of important, but lesser-known book awards. Patterson, a professor emeritus at Brown University, is the only individual to write two volumes in this series. This book picks up right where Grand Expectations, his previous contribution to the series, left off. He basically advances the same argument about rights consciousness, but for a different time period.

His text is stunning. He shows his skill in interpreting vast amounts of information and putting old controversies into new lights. The 1970s were hardly as bad as people thought and the 1980s were a time of greatness as Ronald Regan dominated the decade in a way that few presidents do.

The account, however, breaks down when Patterson reaches 1990. The chapters in the second half of the book are quite uneven. Some are as brilliant and informative as the material on the 1970s. In other chapters, Patterson fails to support his thesis. His citations are often missing and fail to support his arguments. At times, Patterson comes across as little more than a journalist reporting on the news of the day.

To use a baseball term, this book is a hit and a miss. A .500 batting average is pretty good in baseball; in history it gets a four-star rating, but just barely.
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