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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Helpful
As a third year student of history, I have done several modules on American history, including the colonial period, the struggle for Independence, the American Civil War,and 20th century American history, including the Presidential terms of Franklin D. Roosevelt,Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon, for every module I have had a companion, and that...
Published on 31 Mar 2001 by thepeopleschamp666@yahoo.com

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3.0 out of 5 stars It struggles over the dry periods of US history, as they all do.
What is wrong with this book is the same that goes wrong with all books about the USA. The period from the end of the Civil War to the beginnings of the First World War presents us with a very dry intermission where not a great deal appears to happen. For an unsophisticated reader such as myself someone is needed to grasp my hand and lead me through the points that are...
Published 1 month ago by Wilf Trauma Spinach


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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Helpful, 31 Mar 2001
This review is from: The Limits of Liberty: American History 1607-1992 (Short Oxford History of the Modern World) (Paperback)
As a third year student of history, I have done several modules on American history, including the colonial period, the struggle for Independence, the American Civil War,and 20th century American history, including the Presidential terms of Franklin D. Roosevelt,Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon, for every module I have had a companion, and that is Maldwyn Jones' Limits of Liberty. Recommended in my first year by my course leader, this is essentially a text book. Jones does not go into significant depths with his book, he provides the facts,he tells what happened and tells the reader why. He does not offer controversial analysis, because this is not what the book is intended to provide, Jones has the task of educating the reader, providing an introduction to all aspects of general American history between 1607 and 1992. Utilising the book, the reader will obtain a good understanding of each area, which is nicely broken down into separate sections, helping the reader in terms of making it easy to read. Focused on the student, and the newcomer, not the expert, The Limits of Liberty provides an excellent starting ground for anyone who is new to general American history.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb book on American History, 20 Feb 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Limits of Liberty: American History 1607-1992 (Short Oxford History of the Modern World) (Paperback)
Jones' book is one that everyone must read if they are to begin the study of american history. It is a comprehensive text with a broad range of subjects and topics that deals with the specifics of each as well as a broad overview. It is detailed enough as to be concise yet it does not overload you with unecessary information. It provides an objective look at american involvement in various conflicts and international affairs. An excellent narrative and analysis of the american history that encompasses nearly 400 years. A must for students and enthusiasts alike!
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3.0 out of 5 stars It struggles over the dry periods of US history, as they all do., 7 Nov 2014
This review is from: The Limits of Liberty: American History 1607-1992 (Short Oxford History of the Modern World) (Paperback)
What is wrong with this book is the same that goes wrong with all books about the USA. The period from the end of the Civil War to the beginnings of the First World War presents us with a very dry intermission where not a great deal appears to happen. For an unsophisticated reader such as myself someone is needed to grasp my hand and lead me through the points that are salient but not actually very engaging.

For instance, a lot of post-civil war policy-making hinged around the potency of the 'tariff' and the reform of this mechanism. By that I take it to mean the amount of taxation levied upon imports, and from that the definition escalates to how this tariff level affected differing levels of society in the US. This is all very interesting at first glance, but it has to be explained in full detail to get the full grasp of what it entails. It needs an 'idiot's guide' approach for a reader who is more used to reading about John Brown and Antietam and Sherman's march to the sea. If you want to understand the US over this period you need to understand the subtleties of what happened in peacetime. And its dullness can be ameliorated by a full explanation of what is actually happening. This book is not meeting the challenge.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vanishing Boundlessness, 7 Jun 2012
By 
Nicholas Casley (Plymouth, Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Limits of Liberty: American History 1607-1992 (Short Oxford History of the Modern World) (Paperback)
This is a review of the original 1983 edition, part of Oxford University Press's series on the history of the modern world. (According to the Guardian's obituary of Maldwyn Jones, who died in 2007, the second edition of 1995 added a discussion on "the conservative revival of the 1980s and the presidential election of 1992. It remains the most authoritative and comprehensive single-authored survey of American history to date.") The original edition, which ends in 1980, has twenty-eight chapter, fifteen maps, and five tables, details of which are given at the end of this review.

"The United States began as an extension of Europe. In some important respects it remained one." These are Jones's opening words, full of insight. He continues, "Yet even the first colonial settlements were never an exact replica of Europe. Right from the start American society and culture diverged from European models." Much about the American character is explained by Jones, but not the American penchant for referring to themselves with a middle initial, examples of which appear on virtually every page: indeed, it is notable when someone is not named in this fashion.

Jones punctures a few myths of the founding of the first colonies, but his work on their early history is relatively brief compared to subsequent years. For example, the first one hundred years of the colonies are contained within the opening twenty-page chapter, and independence from Britain is gained by the end of chapter three. Following chapters, though still following a broadly chronological progress, become based on themes: politics, economy, society, growth. Each chapter is about the right length, taking me about an hour each to read. Whilst one might consider the volume to possess the qualities of a dry textbook, the text itself - as I hope the examples given in this review demonstrate - is extremely well-written and is never laboured.

On more than one occasion I was struck by Jones's words having a very contemporary resonance. For example, of the anxieties of the 1890s he writes, "Though Americans were proud of their technological achievements many of the more thoughtful were disturbed by the rise of the trusts, the growing concentration of wealth, the spread of political corruption, the widening of social conditions, the bitterness of industrial strife, the scale and character of immigration, and the resulting loss of cultural homogeneity." Whilst not an exact match for the present (2012), we are close.

And how about Jones's consideration of the causes of the Great Depression?: " ... it is generally accepted that the prosperity of the 1920s had been built on shaky foundations. The most serious underlying weakness of the economy was that capacity to produce had outrun capacity to consume. One reason for this was that a substantial part of the population ... had not shared in the general prosperity. Another was that income was maldistributed. Profits and dividends had risen much faster than wages, while Republican tax policies had favored the wealthy."

Some of the questions posed about Soviet intentions during the Cold War have been answered since the USSR's collapse and were possibly included in the second edition. On the question of Kennedy's presidency, Jones is even-handed. Whilst praising his "courage, self-awareness [and} ... cool intelligence", he also sees the shortcomings of his policies.

Jones has titled his work `The Limits of Liberty', but he never explicitly engages with this concept. Instead, the reader comes to it implicitly in each chapter. The only occasion where reference to the phrase occurs in the text is towards the end, when he describes the country at the time of the 1976 bicentenary. Then, the country was "in a chastened, puzzled, introspective frame of mind. ... Vietnam had demonstrated that the United States was not omnipotent, Watergate that it was not uniquely virtuous, the `energy crisis' that its natural resources were not infinite. In short the old sense of boundlessness had gone. Even as they recalled the ringing phrases of the Declaration of Independence, Americans were painfully aware of the limits of liberty and of power."

Each chapter comes with its own detailed and guided bibliography for further exploration. The fifteen maps, whilst very useful, are all in monochrome. The five tables comprise 1. the populations of the individual states over time; 2. immigration totals; 3. admission dates of the states to the union; 4. all the presidential election results (to 1980); and a list of the justices of the Supreme Court.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great One-Volume History of USA, 14 Jun 2006
By 
Mr. Nc Shackley "NatShack" (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Limits of Liberty: American History 1607-1992 (Short Oxford History of the Modern World) (Paperback)
This is the best one volume history of the United States I have read. The other two I have read are those by Hugh Brogan and Howard Zinn. Whilst Brogan's book was good, I found his style a bit meandering and old fashioned. Zinn's was a good read but it is very biased and therefore not suitable as an introduction to this subject.

Maldwyn Jones' `The Limits of Liberty' on the other hand, features both enjoyable, highly readable prose and balanced information on every topic it covers. I have used this throughout my American history degree course and whenever there is something I have needed to look up; sure enough the information has been in here.

Another advantage is the extensive bibliography at the end. If there is anything in this edition that you come across and would like read more about, then Jones' bibliography will almost certain lead you in the right direction, offering a good selection.

The only minor (and these are very minor) complaints I can think of are that Jones sometimes goes overboard with the amount of facts and figures he uses, to the extent that I often wondered whether this should have been titled `A statistical History of the USA'. As with other single volume histories of the US, Jones also dedicates a disproportionate amount of the book to the twentieth century. The colonial period, which is of particular interest to me, is given only scant coverage here. However, such things are bound to happen in a book that aims to pack so much information in a limited space.

I would certainly recommend this as an introduction to the subject it covers.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Introduction, 23 Aug 2012
By 
S. Smith (London UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Limits of Liberty: American History 1607-1992 (Short Oxford History of the Modern World) (Paperback)
It is a very difficult task to write a broad but credible survey of four centuries of American history from settlement to the present, but Maldwyn Jones does it well. His study is a considerable achievement that covers a vast range of political, economic, and social topics in this period and shows their interaction. His title comes from a realisation that, despite its rhetoric, there are limits to the liberty proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence. These limits by race, religion, class or other factors form a theme that runs through the book. However, as it has no Introduction, this theme is not made clear at the start of the book.

In a relatively short book for a huge subject, not everything can be covered to the same standard. Jones gives a clear and informed view on political developments, which make up the bulk of the book. He also writes well about population growth, immigration and population movement, but seems less comfortable writing on economic history. The coverage of the period before the American Revolution is quite brief, but the period from then to the end of the Civil War and through Reconstruction is covered in depth and with skill, as is the period from about 1920. The coverage of the late 19th and early 20th centuries is reasonable, but the period is generally less interesting than that earlier or later ones.

The quality of writing is good, and the book has a reasonable number of maps and tables to supplement the text. Overall, it is a very good single-volume introduction to American history.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent part of a great series, 23 July 2001
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Anatole Pang (London, Britain) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Limits of Liberty: American History 1607-1992 (Short Oxford History of the Modern World) (Paperback)
I stumbled across this book only after having delighted in Bonney's European Dynastic States. Jones' narrative and analysis of the general trends in American history in this publication is concise yet informative, covering things in just enough detail to get a feel for each period, and broad enough to allow easy comprehension of the story as a whole. I strongly recommend this book as a survey both as an introduction for those with academic intentions as well as human interest reading. Another great book in the Oxford History of the Modern World series.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too many stats and not enough depth, 28 Jun 2007
By 
J. Powell "Jimbo" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Limits of Liberty: American History 1607-1992 (Short Oxford History of the Modern World) (Paperback)
I was not overly impressed with this. It's hard to get a one volume history of the USA, they don't even have them available in the USA. So it is either this or the truly dire Penguin History of the USA by Hugh Brogan. These are your choices for beginners on the road to learning American history. I do my degree in this subject, so thought this was an ideal book to start with in my first year. I was only half correct in this choice.

The book is extremely Anglocentric, all that is covered is 1607 onwards, as if America did not even exist before that date! Where pray, are the hundreds of years of Native American history? Ditto the Spanish colonies and conquest, Slavery is not mentioned too often, the West Indies etc. these are vital factors in the growth and History of the Nation. How you write a book on America and barely mention them?

To sum it up, its OK, a bit too verbose and wordy with far too many statistics. I read this as a starting point in U.S history for my degree, but I could have learned in a simpler way - buy the Oxford History of the United States series. I recommend you to do the same, don't make my mistake and start with this book. The subject is too big for one book anyway.
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