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

Overview

"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


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Hardcover New 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 Read more Show Less

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Overview

"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
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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.].
Commentary
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.
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
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
Geoffrey C. Ward
Sumptuous...Richly rewards close reading. -- Washington Post Book World
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
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
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
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.]. -- Commentary
Wright
...a straightforward yet lively pictoral narrative of United Stated history from the Oklahoma land rush of 1889 to now.

Biography

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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679410706
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/1/1998
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 709
  • Age range: 10 years
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 11.54 (h) x 1.57 (d)

Meet the Author

Harold Evans
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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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!

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Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction: Why it Can be Called the American Century
Ch. 1 The Last Frontier 1889-1893 2
Ch. 2 Showdown for Democracy 1890-1898 20
Ch. 3 The Lure of Empire 1898-1905 48
Ch. 4 Old and New Americans 1880-1910 82
Ch. 5 Workers Take a Stand 1893-1916 106
Ch. 6 Good Times, Bad Times 1914-1920 140
Ch. 7 The Turmoil of Normalcy 1920-1929 180
Ch. 8 The Dream Turns to Dust 1929-1939 218
Ch. 9 The Road to World War II 1936-1941 282
Ch. 10 The Citadel of Democracy 1941-1945 314
Ch. 11 America Leads 1945-1956 386
Ch. 12 The Dawn of a New Freedom 1954-1965 452
Ch. 13 The War of Lost Illusions 1963-1975 522
Ch. 14 The Imperial Presidency 1972-1980 566
Ch. 15 Put Out More Flags 1981-1989 612
Afterword: Let Freedom Ring 653
Acknowledgments 665
Photographic Acknowledgments 665
Bibliography 665
Index 665
Illustration Credits 665
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