James T. Patterson's "Restless Giant", Volume 11 (and last chronologically) in the Oxford History of the United States puts an exclamation point on this gem of a series. Professor Patterson follows up on his own penultiate volume in the series, "Grand Expectations", with aplomb. David M. Kennedy, now the editor of the series, succeeding the late C. Vann Woodward, and himself the author of the antepenultimate volume, "Freedom from Fear", perhaps sums up the rationale for studying such recent history in his forward to this book: "It is often said that the history we know the least well is the history of our own time, particularly the decades immediately surrounding our own birth. Here (the readers) will find a cogent and compelling account of how history shaped the world they inherited . . . ".
Patterson does again what he does best and that is put history in the context of a multitude of definitionally overlapping diciplines. Covering the time period of 1974-2000, without the context of a Revolutionary War (as did Robert Middlekauff in "Glorious Cause"), the Civil War (James McPherson in "Battle Cry of Freedom"), and the Great Depression and WWII (Kennedy's Freedom from Fear) - all part of this series, is exceedingly well done and presented in a fashion that most historical narrative writers would find difficult to create. It is, hence, no surprise that Patterson was chosen to write two volumes here, both recent 20th Century history, without a linchpin on which to write around. He covers the period extraordinarily well and gives the reader a very balanced view of the many facets of our history over the last thirty years.
With this book only the 5th actually published in the series, I was quite happy to learn the following. Gordon S. Wood (Brown University) will be writing on the early National era. Daniel Howe (UCLA) will be writing on the Jacksonian era. H.W. Brands (University of Texas) will be writing on the late 19th Century. Bruce Schulman (Boston University) will be writing on the Progressive era. One or two volumes (two would make the series the full eleven volumes originally envisioned) on the Colonial period apparently have yet to be assigned. While the topical volume on economic history has been scrapped, George Herring (University of Kentucky) is writing one on foreign relations and policy. These are expected out in the 2006-2007 time frame.
The entire series is a wonderful undertaking that has not received the joint acclaim it deserves. Certainly many awards have been won individually for these terrific works but I think the awareness of the series, as a whole, is much lower than is warranted by the scholarly work being put into it. I am hopeful that as more volumes are published, this quickly dissipates. Kudos to all involved in this very worthy project.
It appears as if readers are in for a treat over the next 12- 24 months with the "missing" volumes at least having manuscripts into David Kennedy (Freedom from Fear) and the series' new editor with the passing of C. Vann Woodward.
Volumes 1 and 2, covering the Colonial Period (1672-1763) have been assigned, in some order, yet to be made public (that I am aware of) to Fred Anderson (University of Colorado) and Andrew Cayton (Miami University of Ohio).
Volume 3 - The Glorious Cause 1763-89, Robert Middlekauf PUBLISHED
Volume 4 - The U.S. from 1789-1815, Gordon Wood (Brown University)
Volume 5- What Hath God Wrought 1815-48, Daniel Walker Howe (UCLA)
Volume 6- Battle Cry of Freedom, 1848-65, James McPherson PUBLISHED
Volume 7- Leviathan: America Comes of Age, 1865-1900, H.W. Brands (Texas)
Volume 8- Reawakened Nation, 1896-1929, Bruce Schulman (Boston University)
Volume 9- Freedom from Fear, 1929-1945, David M. Kennedy PUBLISHED
Volume 10- Grand Expectations, 1945-74, James T. Patterson PUBLISHED
Volume 11- Restless Giant, 1974-2000, James T. Patterson PUBLISHED
Volume 12- a complete history of American foreign policy, George Herring (Kentucky)
It appears that the Brands addition has been pulled and will not be part of the series. What will take its place is not yet known. I would speculate that Brands will be writing on this same period, just not for this series as the work was largely done. A similar event happened some time ago with Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick writing "The Age of Federalism, 1788-1800". This was originally to be part of the series but the two apparently did not go far enough chromatically for the publishers. Also John Gaddis Lewis has written extensively and was also, somehow, dropped by Oxford. All of this makes for great reading one way or another.