The American Century, 1929-1945: The Dream Turns to Dust and the World Goes to War

The American Century, 1929-1945: The Dream Turns to Dust and the World Goes to War

by Harold Evans, Ira Claffey

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"In a style at once trenchant and easygoing,
Harold Evans leads us on a walk through
the century now drawing to a close, taking us
back over ground that far too many of us
have let slip from our memories."
--Shelby Foote, author of The Civil War

The American Century is an epic work. With its spectacular


"In a style at once trenchant and easygoing,
Harold Evans leads us on a walk through
the century now drawing to a close, taking us
back over ground that far too many of us
have let slip from our memories."
--Shelby Foote, author of The Civil War

The American Century is an epic work. With its spectacular illustrations and incisive and lucid writing, it is as exciting and inspiring as the hundred years it surveys. Harold Evans has dramatized a people's struggle to achieve the American Dream, but also offers a thoughtful and provocative analysis of the great movements and events in America's rise to a position of political and cultural dominance. There are 900 photographs, several hundred brought to light for the first time, and the richly researched narrative offers many surprises.

In 1889, when the United States entered the second hundred years of its existence, it was by no means certain that a nation of such diverse peoples, manifold beliefs, and impossible ideals could survive its own exceptional experiment in democracy or manage to avoid a headlong slide into oblivion. Evans describes what happened to the democratic ideal amid the clash of personalities and the convulsions of great events. Here are assessments of the century's nineteen presidents, from Benjamin Harrison, who brought the Stars and Stripes into American life in 1889, to the movie star who waved it so vigorously a hundred years later. Here are the muckrakers who exposed the evils of rampant capitalism, and the women who fought to make a reality of the rhetoric of equality. Here are the robber barons--the Carnegies, the Rockefellers, and the Morgans -- carvingout great empires of unparalleled wealth, turning their millions into foundations for public benefit. Here are Al Capone and J. Edgar Hoover, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Ku Klux Klan, Joe McCarthy and Dwight Eisenhower. Here is the American heartland at peace (but on the wagon), America in two world wars, and at war with itself in the sixties.

Evans analyzes the central questions of the era. Among them: How did the tradition arise that government should not meddle in business? How did anti-colonial America become an imperial power? How much was democracy threatened by the influence of money? What was the nature of American isolationism? Why did Woodrow Wilson take the United States into World War I? What caused the Great Depression, and why did it last so long? Did Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal succeed or fail? Did the protests of the sixties go too far? Was Vietnam a noble cause? Has the Watergate scandal been blown up out of all proportion? Who deserves the credit for the end of the Cold War?

Throughout, Harold Evans lets us see how America prospered because of the power of an idea: the idea of freedom. The nation did not simply become the largest economic and military power, send men to the moon and jeans and consumer capitalism to Red Square--it strengthened Western society through acts of courage, generosity, and vision unequaled in history.

The British may claim the nineteenth century by force, and the Chinese may cast a long shadow over the twenty-first, but the twentieth century belongs to the United States. This is America's story as it has never been told before.

With 900 photographs

Editorial Reviews

Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
. . .[S]ays it was not inevitable that the era should have been an American one, and examines just how it turned out to be.
The New York Times
Parade Magazine
It powerfully and penetratingly recounts this country's history.
Robert J Samuelson
A genuine achievement. He has ranged over an immense field. . .The result satisfies and surprises. . .and [is] worth every penny.
The Los Angeles Times
Walter A. McDougall
...[W]hat high characteristics, peculiar to the United States, made this an American century[?]....his answer — Americans, he writes, just have an instinct for democracy, and a genius for not pressing any political theory too far....perhaps, in the end, this leviathan of a book is really intended to be...Evans' thank you to [the U.S.].
Library Journal
President and publisher at Random House until a year ago, when he became editorial director of the Daily News, U.S. News and World Report, and the Atlantic Monthly, Britisher Evans has probably been here long enough to write this chronicle of U.S. dominance in this century.
School Library Journal
YA--Evans has set for himself an unusual task: to organize his narrative as a "history for browsers." He more than succeeds. Yes, readers can browse with pleasure here and there, but the book is equally readable from cover to cover. The subject is the political (not social or cultural) history of the United States from 1889 to 1989, and while the coverage is nearly encyclopedic, Evans is able, through masterful analysis and synthesis, to keep his main thesis clearly in focus. He argues that the past 100 years "belongs to the United States because of the triumph of its faith in its founding idea of political and economic freedom." The American domination of the international scene has led to mixed results, but the bottom line is a steady, if halting, increase in the inalienable rights of all. Not a new idea, but seldom has this theme been so engagingly presented. This seasoned journalist is always readable, always ready with a lively anecdote to support his argument. But as good as the writing might be, the 900 black-and-white photos and dozens of other illustrations nearly steal the show. Great care, and tremendous work, went into the culling of these often unfamiliar, striking images. Teens will appreciate this book for its snappy prose, browseable format, and superb illustrations. With its extensive bibliography and index, this volume can also be used to supplement reference collections.--Robert Saunderson, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Geoffrey C. Ward
Sumptuous...Richly rewards close reading. -- Washington Post Book World
David S. Reynolds
Written in the liveliest historial prose I have come across in a long while...[illustrated with] a gallery of images, striking in its variety and pungency, representative without being hackneyed. -- The New York Times Book Review
Sean Wilentz
A work of history that lives and breathes and wonderfully instructs. . .splendidly illustrated. . .Evans explores his century with energy and wit. -- The New Yorker
Jennifer Merk
As an illustrated history of the individuals who have shaped America's politics, The American Century is impressive. Gail Buckland's photographic research is meticulous, the images stunning and used to excellent effect; the historical detail is often startling, the snapshot portraits of the people who have formed American domestic and foreign policy compelling. -- Richmond Review
...a straightforward yet lively pictoral narrative of United Stated history from the Oklahoma land rush of 1889 to now.


Kirkus Reviews
Evans (Good Times, Bad Times), former president of the Random House Trade Group and presently editorial director of the New York Daily News, U.S. News and World Report, and The Atlantic Monthly, offers a brisk narrative history of America in the 20th century, giving equal weight to 'the personalities and events of America's second century.' The animating idea of the book, announced in its first pages, is that 'America was more than merely the latest phase of a long succession of experiments in man's social history. It worked because the effort was inspired by the inner light of freedom. Democracy delivered.' And while Evans can be tersely critical of American foreign policy (especially of policies pursued in the second half of the century), he generally holds closely to his central thesis, offering a text that touches on all of the major social and political events of the century (from the Spanish-American War up to the Presidency of George Bush) while stressing, in each one, its impact on the evolving American identity... A handsome overview of America in recent times.

Product Details

Macmillan Audio
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.77(w) x 7.06(h) x 4.77(d)

Read an Excerpt

As we embark upon a new millennium, we look back at the incredible last 100 years, 1889-1989, an amazing adventure that was unique, unforgettable, and all-American. Now just in time for the Fourth of July, The American Century, Volumes 1-4, is available as a boxed audiocassette and boxed CD set.

Magnificently written by Harold Evans, these stunningly powerful audiobooks dynamically portray the events that altered the course of America and the world. From the opening of volume 1 and the westward drive of the settlers, through to the coda of volume 4 with Vietnam and the Reagan years, The American Century sweepingly documents the greatest century in history.

This wonderfully accessible four-part audio series vibrantly brings the achievements and strife of the past 100 years to life. Don't miss this specially priced box set and relive all the power and passion of the past century!

What People are saying about this

Vartan Gregorian
Major and inspiring.
Shelby Foote
In a style at once trenchant and easygoing, Harold Evans leads us on a walk through the century now drawing to a close, taking us back over ground that far too many of us have let slip from our memories. -- Author of The Civil War
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
Astute, evocative, challenging, wonderfully readable and gloriously illustrated history.
Neil Sheehan
This is history to enjoy, engagingly written, splendidly illustrated. -- Author of A Bright and Shining Lie
Stanley I. Kutler
A magnificent book. . .Evans has given America a wonderful end-of-the-century gift.
John Kenneth Galbraith
I much enjoyed it, as I think will all.
Gen. Colin Powell (Rtd.)
A riveting, panoramic sweep of the forces of the last century that shaped today's America. . .the exciting story of who we are, how we got there, and where we might be headed. . . .A book every family should have.

Meet the Author

Harold Evans is Editorial Director and Vice Chairman of the Daily News, U.S. News & World Report, and Atlantic Monthly. He has been editor of The Times (London) and The Sunday Times, and was President and Publisher of Random House from 1990 to 1997. He lives in New York City with his wife, Tina Brown, and their two children.

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