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America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s Paperback – 2 Oct 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 383 pages
  • Publisher: OUP USA; 2 edition (2 Oct. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195160479
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195160475
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 1.7 x 15.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,211,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"A knowing and highly readable narrative."--Evan Thomas in The Washington Post"Isserman and Kazin write with a marvelous mix of poignancy and wit. They take seriously the grand dreams of the era and they feel the loss of shattered hopes. They are also willing to poke fun at the decade's excesses."-- Reviews in American History"An engaging account of a decade whose divisions characterize us to this day and whose triumphs continue to inspire us. An excellent introduction to the period."--The Boston Book Review"Good historical writing consists not least in the capacity to convey the spirit of a time, the thoughts and feelings of its actors, and the passions hidden behind the silence of the majority. The historians Maurice Isserman and Michael Kazin are masters of this metier."--Die Zeit"Students, and surely the general reader, will profit greatly from this concise text, with no revisionist ax to grind and with a truly national perspective."--The San Francisco Chronicle"The level of detail in the book is just right, not getting in the way of narrative momentum, yet providing plenty for students to chew on.Overall, in terms of coverage and analytic bite, the book is the best--I'm tempted to say the only--choice for teachers seeking a work on the sixties."--David Hunt, University of Massachusetts, Boston"

About the Author

Maurice Isserman is the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of History at Hamilton College, and is the author of If I Had a Hammer: The Death of the Old Left and the Birth of the New Left. He lives in upstate New York. Michael Kazin is Professor of History at Georgetown University, and is the author of The Populist Persuasion: An American History and Barons of Labor. He lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Format: Paperback
This is the 4th edition of a popular text. It serves well as a standard for High School. I am not sure how valuable it would be either for older students or, for that matter, outside America itself.

It is concise rather comprehensive. The approach taken is chronological. Headline events and personalities are all included. Most principal themes are assessed. Appropriate pictures are incorporated into each chapter. The authors don’t court controversy, but offer considered views. They are strong on politics and culture, but weak on economics, in which neither has a background.

An early chapter looks back at the 1950s. The “60s” did not really begin until January 2 1963, the Viet Cong victory at the battle of Ap Bac. From then the war in Asia assumed a growing influence over all aspects of American life. The decade closed on August 9 1974 when Nixon resigned the Presidency.

The Vietnam War is discussed at some length and figures in most chapters of the book. Its cost brought down the welfare dreams of the Great Society, and ended the career of its architect, Johnson. The politics and policies of the four Presidents are covered in detail here, the achievements and failings of all being shrewdly weighed. The authors argue that a key feature of the period was the failure to establish a liberal consensus around the Democratic Party, and the often unnoticed rise of a more conservative Republican party. The New Left and evangelical right each played a role in this process.

Outside mainstream politics we see the emergence of a movement for women’s rights; legislative progress was made in that area. The politics of black liberation are more complex, as radical even revolutionary groups competed with and against moderate organisations and the federal government.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Francesca (history student) on 25 Oct. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I finally received this book after waiting almost a month, which is fair enough because it was coming from New York. The book itself is a good read and to any student a great guide to the America in the 1960's. However the book has somebody else's notes written on most of the pages and they have used highlighters. I knew it was second hand but really annoyed it wasn't noted in the description that the inside had been defaced otherwise I would have bought a new(er) copy.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 15 reviews
34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Accurate, Comprehensive, & masterful Overview of the 1960s! 14 Oct. 2000
By Barron Laycock - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is often said that history is written by the victors, meaning, I suppose, that the particular interpretation recorded for posterity reflects the ideology and perspective of those dominating forces successful in the particular struggle a particular historical treatment covers. Of course, such a self-serving interpretation may in fact vary wildly from anything like an accurate accounting of the actual unfolding of events and issues. Nowhere in contemporary society is such an inaccurate, disingenuous, and self-serving revisionist tendency likely as in the coverage and reflection on the events and issues of the sixties counterculture. Many recent tomes purport the times in such a solipsistic and self-serving fashion as to turn the truth on its very head. Yet all that is corrected in this wonderful overview of the momentous events and social, economic, and political issues as characterized the sixties. In "America Divided", a fascinating work comparing the deep and dangerous divisions within American society to those of the Civil War a hundred years before, authors Maurice Isserman and Michael Kazin accurately describe and explain the complex forces that seemed to strain the social fabric to the point of near-revolution and widespread violence in the streets.
The authors carefully avoid the twin mistakes of either overly romanticizing the perspectives, ideas, and issues of the youthful counter culturists to epic proportions on the one hand, or of summarily dismissing them as silly and superficial on the other hand, as is often the case with neo-conservative revisionists who would have us believe the manifest troubles of contemporary America stem primarily from the permissiveness of the counterculture rather than admit it is much more likely the result of massive and constant dislocations associated with scientific and technological change that is threatening the core values and mores of American culture. This book faithfully retraces and integrates the various strands running through the sixties into a seamless historical narrative that renders one of the most sophisticated, articulate, and accurate interpretations of a decade that left those of us who lived through it breathless and yet strangely unable to describe it to anyone who had not shared the experience.
After reading the book, one remembers that those times were indeed characterized by great complexity, diversity, and incredible intellectual ferment and debate. Other recent accounts that blame the counterculture for the contemporary cultural malaise overlook the amazing diversity and intense ongoing dialogue that often degenerated into violent confrontation, whether it be over free speech, civil rights, Vietnam, or the perfidy of the power elite comprised of multinational corporations and big government. This book is a compelling, immensely readable, and quite entertaining work, and one that brilliantly achieves its objective by accurately describing, explaining, and integrating the intricate patchwork of events, issues, and perspectives that made the sixties decade so vital and so unique on recent American history. As with the Civil War, we are unlikely to see its like again. Those of us who remember it as a time of pitch and moment regret it, though clearly other more constipated and conservative voices hardly agree. Read this one before the nattering nabobs of negativity at the helm of the media succeed in explaining it all away.
31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
A well-balanced and comprehensive study of the 1960's 31 Jan. 2000
By Joe Brown - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In "America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960's," Maurice Isserman and Michael Kazin effectively summarize a painfully divisive yet enlightening decade in our nation's history. By focusing on political, cultural, and economic changes wrought by both the liberal and conservative camps, Isserman and Kazin give a comprehensive and objective account of the 1960's. The authors begin by making an interesting point by comparing the sweeping changes wrought by the Civil War with that of the 1960's and make the assertion that both periods had much in common with how they both changed and divided America. In the 1950's, America enjoyed both an economic and diplomatic prosperity in the wake of World War II. The average family income increased and the "affluent society" which arose out of it ironically became an identifying factor in causing much of the political and social divisiveness prevalent in the 1960's. The authors' examination of the civil rights movement and the beginnings of the Vietnam War can be seen as by products of the liberal tendency to view the prosperity of the 1950's as unequal and leaving out the margins of both the poor and non-white population. The Vietnam War was a casualty of American overconfidence in its role in world affairs in the wake of the anti-communism of the 1950's. Isserman and Kazin effectively balance the issues of womens' rights, civil rights, the student movement, and the counterculture and examine their role in both liberal and conservative politics. The authors assert that the Right gained more popularity among voters after the tumultuous years from 1965-1968. Religious life was also transformed in that many liberals questioned established religion and conservatives sought to reassert the morals and values of religion into the national culture. As a result of the 1960's, American political and social life was divided but,at the same time, more positively varied. Newly recognized social groups (gays, minorities, and women) gained more political and social clout and the conservative Right benefitted in the sense the New Left further proved to divide Democratic politics. This book is a must read for anyone to have a good comprehensive overview of the 1960's. My only problem with the book was its length (a little too short) but perhaps the short bibliographic essay at the book will inspire the reader to learn more than what the authors covered in the book. Overall, a must for a 60's historian's bookshelf.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Just the facts Ma'am 11 April 2011
By Tojagi - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
When I read that these authors were social activists in the 1960s I was bracing myself for a slanted history. Nothing of the kind. This is the most clear, concise, and unbiased account I've read. A textbook account. And it is all protein. No wasted words. I especially liked the four pages starting on page 68 where the authors explain how America got involved with Vietnam. I also appreciated the clear, concise explanation of the religious shake-up beginning on page 255. The Civil rights movement, the women's movement, sex, drugs, rock n roll, the war on poverty; it's all decribed in plain English. I couldn't find one single paragraph where I felt they were pushing an opinion. And perhaps that is why there are not more reviews for this book. People respond to political opinion and polemics. There's a general feeling among Americans that everyone must weigh-in on the sixties, take a side. This is true, I've noticed, even for those not old enough to remember the 60s.

But if you are looking for a `just the facts Ma'am' account of the sixties without all the confusion of opinions and theories, I doubt that you could find a better book. This book deserves five stars not for startling insights or carefully crafted arguments, but for accomplishing a difficult task: a completely unbiased account of a controversial era.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Standard High School Text 15 April 2014
By gerardpeter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is the 4th edition of a popular text. It serves well as a standard for High School.

It is concise rather comprehensive. The approach taken is chronological. Headline events and personalities are all included. Most principal themes are assessed. Appropriate pictures are incorporated into each chapter. The authors don’t court controversy, but offer considered views. They are strong on politics and culture, but weak on economics, in which neither has a background.

An early chapter looks back at the 1950s. The “60s” did not really begin until January 2 1963, the Viet Cong victory at the battle of Ap Bac. From then the war in Asia assumed a growing influence over all aspects of American life. The decade closed on August 9 1974 when Nixon resigned the Presidency.

The Vietnam War is discussed at some length and figures in most chapters of the book. Its cost brought down the welfare dreams of the Great Society, and ended the career of its architect, Johnson. The politics and policies of the four Presidents are covered in detail here, the achievements and failings of all being shrewdly weighed. The authors argue that a key feature of the period was the failure to establish a liberal consensus around the Democratic Party, and the often unnoticed rise of a more conservative Republican party. The New Left and evangelical right each played a role in this process.

Outside mainstream politics we see the emergence of a movement for women’s rights; legislative progress was made in that area. The politics of black liberation are more complex, as radical even revolutionary groups competed with and against moderate organisations and the federal government. Youth gets a chapter and the evolution of rock music in this decade is put in context. The authors find space for less well-known topics. The 1967 Arab-Israeli War politicised young American Jews and energised a powerful Zionism. In 1973 Hispanic was recognised as an ethnic category in the US census. The political weight of Hispanic people has certainly become more evident in the years since.

One criticism of Isserman/Kazin is their failure to cover the economy. The blips when Kennedy took office were matched by a serious economic crisis in Nixon’s second term in office. The long post-war boom was coming to an end. The authors are not comfortable with economics. I think a chapter by an economist would have improved this volume.

I don't think this book - or indeed any other - justifies the typing of this era as a "civil war" - there was social conflict and change, but nothing to compare with a century before. That said, overall, this is a good introduction to the period. There is plenty of material to discuss and enough basic facts to ground classroom debate.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
very comprehensive 6 Oct. 2013
By MAXIMILLIAN MUHAMMAD - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
this book speaks directly on the 60's and how hostile and how the maddness of hatred and the reality of that time period was very much real. i often wonder how people who allow such maddness can live within themselves. i mean its sad when you see two worlds and such negativity. this is the kind of book which took place not so long ago and also how dangerous those times were. not that long ago.
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