Restless Giant: The United States from Watergate to Bush v. Gore

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Overview

James Patterson's Bancroft Prize-winning Grand Expectations, the penultimate volume in the Oxford History of the United States, was hailed by The New York Times as "a spirited, sprawling narrative of American life" and by The Wall Street Journal as "a tour de force." Now, in the final chronological volume of this acclaimed series, Patterson again offers an authoritative and vibrant history of a turbulent period in American life. Restless Giant provides a crisp, concise assessment of the twenty-seven years between the resignation of Richard Nixon and the election of George W. Bush, in a sweeping narrative that seamlessly weaves together social, cultural, political, economic, and international developments. We meet the era's many memorable figures--most notably, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton--and explore the "culture wars" where liberals and conservatives, including a resurgent Religious Right, appeared to cut the country in two. Indeed, Reagan helped to usher in a widespread conservative revolution, but even as the Right was ascendant politically, it did not succeed in reversing more liberal trends. Patterson describes how, when the Cold War finally ended, Americans faced bewildering new developments around the world and discovered--in Panama, Somalia, Bosnia, and Iraq--that it was far from easy to direct the outcome of global events. In exploring a wide range of cultural, social, and economic concerns, Patterson shows how the persistence of racial tensions, high divorce rates, alarm over crime, and urban decay all led many writers to portray this era as one of decline. But Restless Giant offers a more positive perspective, arguing that our often unmet expectations caused many of usto view the era negatively, when in fact we were in many ways better off than we thought. By 2000, most Americans lived more comfortably than they had in the 1970s, and though bigotry and discrimination were far from extinct, a powerful rights consciousness insured that these were less pervasive in American life than at any time in the past. With insightful analyses and engaging prose, Restless Giant captures this period of American history in a way that no other book has, illuminating the road that the United States traveled from the dismal days of the mid-1970s through the hotly contested election of 2000.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The 11th volume of the Oxford History of the American People brings the series almost up to date. Its James T. Patterson also wrote the preceding volume, Grand Expectations, which won the coveted Bancroft Prize. Restless Giant follows national trends from the incremental political suicide of President Richard Nixon to the disputed presidential cliff-hanger of 2000. Along the way, this engaging history discusses social, cultural, economic, and international developments, touching on everything from racial quotas to the rise of the religious right.
Charles Peters
This is first-rate history by a first-rate historian. Unlike many of his brethren, James T. Patterson can write, and he understands the value of vivid detail, using "Annie Hall," "Norma Rae" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" to help explain the women's movement. What's more, he can think, and he offers analysis and interpretation that is consistently sensible, if sometimes a trifle Panglossian.
— The New York Times
Paul Kennedy
… Patterson has risen magnificently to the task of describing and analyzing this rich and confused period. Of course, to undergraduate freshmen these years are already history (none of my students was alive, for example, when Ronald Reagan was elected president), but to other readers this narrative is all too recognizable -- almost yesterday's news, though delivered with great balance. In fact, the many themes covered here -- such as the heated debates over abortion, the role of the Supreme Court, the Watergate aftershocks, the consumer revolutions, the rise of Latino communities and the economic stagnation of black ones, the coming of the Internet, the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the Black Hawk Down disaster in Mogadishu -- will occasionally seem all too recent. This reader confesses that he sometimes felt that he was reading, say, the Economist's "Year in Review" and then realized that the events in question had taken place 12 or 15 years ago.
— The Washington Post
Library Journal
Continuing where he ended his prior contribution to the series (Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974), Patterson (history, Brown Univ.) 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. Naturally, as the book approaches its end, Patterson is brushing up so close to the present that his history turns to mere summary-always a problem when writing near to the time period. Had David Kennedy written Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945-his contribution to Oxford's notable multivolume series-in 1950 instead of 1999, it would likely have been forgotten instead of earning a Pulitzer Prize. Nonetheless, Patterson is a fine historian, and even his summary is as good as we are liable to get until distance gives later historians the space they will need to begin work on the more recent years covered here. For all libraries.-Robert F. Nardini, Chichester, NH Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

"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

  • ISBN-13: 9780195122169
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/1/2005
  • Series: Oxford History of the United States Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 471,901
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

James T. Patterson is Ford Foundation Professor of History Emeritus at Brown University. One of the most highly respected historians of contemporary America, he is the author of Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974, which won a Bancroft Prize, and Brown v Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and Its Troubled Legacy.

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Table of Contents

1 The troubled 1970s 13
2 Sex, families, stagflation 45
3 The political world of the mid-1970s 76
4 Carter, Reagan, and the rise of the right 108
5 "Morning again in America" 152
6 America and the world in the 1980s 193
7 Bush 41 218
8 "Culture wars" and "decline" in the 1990s 254
9 Immigration, multiculturalism, race 292
10 Political wars of the early Clinton years 318
11 Prosperity, partisanship, terrorism 346
12 Impeachment and electoral crisis, 1998-2000 387
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