As John Jeffries observes in his new and cogent history of America during World War II, our view of the war has been shaped by two widely accepted perspectives: as a watershed in American history, as a “Good War” of national unity, virtue, and success. Searching for the reality behind these catchphrases, Mr. Jeffries finds a richer and more varied portrait of America at war, one that defies easy interpretation. If great changes came to American life, thy were not necessarily brought by the war; if the struggle ...
As John Jeffries observes in his new and cogent history of America during World War II, our view of the war has been shaped by two widely accepted perspectives: as a watershed in American history, as a “Good War” of national unity, virtue, and success. Searching for the reality behind these catchphrases, Mr. Jeffries finds a richer and more varied portrait of America at war, one that defies easy interpretation. If great changes came to American life, thy were not necessarily brought by the war; if the struggle seemed one of moral unity, not all Americans were equally wedded to the cause. In considering the nation’s political economy and the effects of mobilization; the social and cultural mobility of wartime; the experiences of minority groups; the strains of domestic politics; and the influence of propaganda, Mr. Jeffries paints a picture of a people emerging from the Great Depression and eager for a better life, yet often reluctant to abandon the touchstones of their past. His succinct, informative history is a welcome contribution to our understanding of this crucial moment in the American experience.
In a brief but sweeping summation of the ways in which WWII affected the nation's course and character, Jeffries, a professor of history at the University of Maryland, examines the conventional wisdom that the war was a watershed in the country's history that established the U.S. as a world economic and political power, expanded federal power at home, gave impetus to the drives for civil liberties and women's rights and laid the basis for decades of prosperity. Among social changes were increased divorce and juvenile delinquency, displaced small farmers and businessmen, a new reign of bureaucracies and the growth of the sunbelt. Jeffries argues that many of these changes were already in the making and not solely attributable to the war. In a style accessible to students and others new to this historical debate, Jeffries offers a good synthesis of arguments. Ultimately, he considers the "watershed" notion as an oversimplification of enormously complex factors that now distinguish the nation from its prewar past. (Oct.)
Jeffries (history, Univ. of Maryland) analyzes the home front both during World War II and in postwar life. He discusses the "good war" and what that really means. He explores Americans' mobility during the war as they relocated to work in defense plants, creating population shifts still evident today. He also takes up such topics as the expanding economy, women, and African Americans and other minority groups. The larger picture portrayed by Jeffries emphasizes the war as a turning point in American history. "A Note on Sources" serves as the concluding chapter, however, it does not take the place of documenting the facts presented throughout the book with footnotes or endnotes. This detracts from the credibility of the work. An optional title for history collections.Dorothy Lilly, Grosse Pointe North H.S. Lib., Mich.
Some pokes into the durable mythological veil of the World War II American homefront providing fresh insights into the societal changes which were, the author argues, not a result of wartime national unity, virtue, or success. Jeffries (history, U. of Maryland) suggests that the war simply accelerated trends already under way, particularly in the areas of a post-depression economy, the social mobility of women and minorities, and in domestic policies. Jeffries demonstrates that although the era is painted with a golden aura of unity, Americans in the 1940s experienced many conflicts and social tensions not acknowledged by the propaganda. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
William M. Tuttle Jr.
Beautiful...answers more questions than any other book about World War II.
A rare combination of virtues: both summarizes and modifies existing interpretations. It will become the standard account, the point from which future scholarship will evolve.
Part 1 Preface ix
Part 2 WARTIME AMERICA: FRAMEWORKS AND MEANINGS 3
Chapter 3 A watershed? A Good War?
Part 4 MOBILIZING THE ECONOMY 16
Chapter 5 Managing the war mobilization. Managing the civilian economy. Managing the budget. The political economy of war - and peace.
Part 6 VICTORY AT HOME AND ABROAD 43
Chapter 7 The dual victory. The organizational society. A leavening agent.
Part 8 A NATION ON THE MOVE 69
Chapter 9 Geographic mobility. The growing Sunbelt. Wartime communities. Families and children.
Part 10 NEW CIRCUMSTANCES, OLD PATTERNS 93
Chapter 11 Women and the war. African Americans and the war.
Part 12 "AMERICANS ALL"? 120
Chapter 13 "Enemy-alien" groups. Other minority groups. Dissent and deviance.
Part 14 "POLITICS AS USUAL" 145
Chapter 15 The election of 1940. The election of 1942 and the Seventy-eighth Congress. The election of 1944.
Part 16 GLIMPSES OF WAR, VISIONS OF PEACE 170
Chapter 17 Scenes of battle. Information and images. Home-front roles, postwar goals.
Part 18 Epilogue 193
Part 19 A Note on Sources 199
Part 20 Index 209