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America, Empire of Liberty: A New History Paperback – 7 Jan 2010
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About the Author
David Reynolds, FBA, is Professor of International History at Cambridge University and a Fellow of Christ's College. He is the author or editor of ten books on aspects of twentieth-century history, including One World Divisible: A Global History since 1945 (2000) and In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing the Second World War (2004) which was awarded the Wolfson History Prize. Both of these books are available as Penguin paperbacks. His most recent book, Summits, was also a six-part BBC TV series which he wrote and presented.
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The Oxford history of the USA has been, IMO, consistently good, based on all the volumes covering the 20th century that I have read. This volume is outstanding for its clarity of writing, level of detail and scope. A joy to read.
Reading the book, it is quite evident that the author has a deep understanding of American past.
The material presented is also constructed in a very interesting way, showcasing historical events against interesting themes.
Overall an excellent purchase.
Highly recommended. Helped me to some extent in understanding the 'why' aspect of American behavior in the 20th and 21st century.
He also explores the paradoxes and tensions in American history, notably how a nation founded on anti-colonialism conquered the native people and built an empire, and how slavery and segregation could persist for so long in a country whose founding document declared that "all men are created equal." In spite of all this, the US is the greatest democracy in the world today and a beacon in the same way that Athens was to democrats in antiquity from the 5th century BCE onwards. As such, America's past, and its own understanding of that past, is relevant to all who care about democracy. This is a great overview of American history for the layman.
Independence from Great Britain brought freedom to the colonies... but it was also to bring many new obstacles and conflicts for the emerging states and national government. Indeed, the nation was to change in less than three decades to one with little resemblance to what it was in 1789
Initially a loose confederation of thirteen like minded states, the development and agreement of a Constitution in 1789 allowed for the setting up of a national government. Subsequent actions by men such as George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams and others led the creation of the 'Federalists'; leaders determined to organise the states in a more structured and powerful nation. However, they were to meet opposition from those who feared a strong centralised authority, something they'd fought the British to eradicate. Men such as James Madison, James Monroe and the most famous of them all; Thomas Jefferson, favoured a limited central government with more rights for the state authorities. The setting up of a tax system, an army, navy, militia forces and even a diplomatic service were considered by Federalists to be essential for the survival of the revolution, but examples of intrusive and freedom restricting government by the Republicans. The Federalists and the Republicans were to mistrust each other for years, an early precursor to the causes of the Civil War...
Wood covers all aspects of US society, politics, economics and religion as the country evolved into a young, vibrant nation full of entrepreneurial, commercially minded and egalitarian citizens determined to be no ones inferior. One key aspect of Wood's work documents how suspicion and dislike of all 'aristocrats' among the citizens led to a greater belief in the equality of men regardless of birthright. This was to brake down barriers and lead to the greater acceptance of women in society and even that of non-white Christians. However, this was slow to begin with and still had a long way to develop by 1815.
The opportunities presented by mass expansion to the west of the North American continent eventually convinced many Americans that they themselves were a people and a nation whose heritage may be predominantly British, but whose future was their own to discover. An identity different from that of their European cousins with different beliefs and a stronger sense of their own personal freedoms. The war with Britain in 1812 was to become more a war of symbolic defiance than that of material gain. The United States was to make a statement; we are an independent people and country who refuse to be pushed around by a former master. This was the so-called 'Second War of independence.
This is a brilliant study in the evolution of the United States. Wood clearly and entertainingly documents how the United States began as a muddled set of newly free territories which was to become a united nation determined to symbolise and practice the concept of the freedom of men over that of monarchical dictatorships as those which ran Europe. The nation in 1815 bared little resemblance to what it did in 1789 thanks to the growth of ideals and beliefs which the nation still holds dear and tirelessly tries to emulate in today's world. 'Empire of Liberty' is crucial to anyone who wishes to understand the development of the United States as a nation and also to those who wish to see why the nation thinks as it does today. Fabulous.