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.
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
… 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
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.
"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 achievementsas well as the scandalsof 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