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This review is from: The American Future: A History From The Founding Fathers To Barack Obama (Paperback)
Having recently read David Reynold's excellent America: Empire of Liberty and Paul Johnson's comprehensive History of the American People - I did not think there was that much anyone could add. But Simon Schama's immense skill as a writer and historian suffuses the subject with freshness and originality. Weaving lived histories with significant events in American history - Schama breathes life into the characters and events, analysing momentus occasions and adding his own considerable insights into a subject he cleary has consummate knowledge of.
Familiar events such as the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement are viewed through the lived histories of characters that were there to witness history unfolding - and Schama brilliantly uses letters and diaries to create a real sense of immanence and urgency - rather than just rehashing other historical accounts.
The causes and effects of these epoch changing events, clearly illustrate how America has been shaped - and Schama frequently jumps to the present to address issues that have been ongoing problems in the country - such as immigration. A question he puts to George W Bush at a Downing Street dinner. That is the strength of this book and the main difference between Schama's work and the others. It is not a linear historical narrative - sometimes the writing has the kind of authority of a witness to the events, and at times reads like a novel.
I think Schama's book is written in a very immaginative way that few writers would have dared attempt - moving backwards and forwards through history and the present. But this style allows you to view the history from a different perspective. I highly recommend The American Future.America, Empire of Liberty: A New HistoryHistory of the American PeopleDivine Magnetic Lands: A Journey in AmericaMade in AmericaThe First Salute: View of the American Revolution