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A History of the American People Paperback – 1 Feb 1999

3.9 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Paperback, 1 Feb 1999
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Product details

  • Paperback: 1104 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1 edition (Feb. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060930349
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060930349
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 4.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,598,694 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"A masterly survey--readable, intelligent and, depending on your point of view, either annoyingly or endearingly cranky." --" Newsweek""Challenges the present consensus...Monstrously energetic, greatly imaginative, large-minded and generous-hearted, occasionally grotesquely unfair, but almost always pointing in the right direction." --" American Spectator""Arresting contentions and pieces of fascinating oddball information...The book also offers a rare opportunity to witness someone trying to make sense of all 400 years of American history and to discover what 'tremendous lessons' it holds for Americans and 'the rest of mankind.'" --" New York Times Book Review""Paul Johnson's" The History of the American People" is as majestic in its scope as the country it celebrates. His theme is the men and women, prominent and unknown, whose energy, vision, courage and confidence shaped a great nation. It is a compelling antidote to those who regard the future with pessimism." -- Henry A. Kissinger"This is vivid and memorable writing...Proves that history can still be literature."--" National Review""A fresh, readable and provocative survey. He is full of opinions...And Johnson can be very wise." --" Los Angeles Times""His zesty, irreverent narratives teach more history to more people than all the post-modernist theorists, highbrow critics and dons put together."-- "Times Literary Supplement"

Book Description

A magnificent book which reinterprets every aspect of American history --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
An interesting and informative book. Johnson broadly defines his subject geographically (the territories now comprising the mainland United States) and chronologically (the post-Columbian period) but his real aim, and his great skill, is to trace the origins and history of the political entity, and the people, now known as the USA. There is little coverage of Indian history, but that, to be fair, is outside Johnson's mandate.
Johnson's style is anecdotal and character-focussed. Perhaps because of this, he is at his most formidable when dealing with the early days of the Union, when great individuals could truly influence the shape of a nation. However his writing remains colourful, yet pertinent and firmly grounded in fact, throughout. Other areas of strength include Johnson's ability to decipher the true founding principles of the American project, and to express them through the eyes of the ordinary American; and to mark out the role of religion as a creative force, especially in the earliest days of settlement.
Johnson's style is enthusiastic and he is not afraid to show that, as a historian and an Englishman, he greatly admires the American nation. His approval, however, is factually backed, and he is not afraid to criticise those who, though devoted to their own concept of the American dream, had their heads in the clouds or their fingers in the till. He has thoroughly mixed opinions of such American luminaries as Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. Overall his work presents a generally balanced tone though the reader may wish subsequently to explore the work of more adverse Americologists.
If there is one criticism of the book, it is that it becomes thinner in its coverage of issues during the twentieth century.
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Format: Paperback
Simply stated, this has got to be one of the best one volume histories of the USA. The author writes with enthusiasm for his subject and also a lot of love and respect for the whole American enterprise. The book itself is a real page turner and challenged some of my own preconceived notions about certain events in American history. It was a delight to read and was one of those books that I was actually sad about finishing in the end. Just read it and above all, enjoy it.
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Format: Paperback
If you are interested in the history of the United States, from the first European settlers through to Bill Clinton, and have several hours to spare to study the subject you cannot help but enjoy Paul Johnson's marvellous journey through America old and new. Johnson keeps the reader interested by provided a portrait of the main protagonists through the comments of their contemporaries, as well as their own writings and provides analysis of the thousands of issues that have made the United States what it is today, from settlement to revolution and from civil war to world war, enabling the reader to envisage and understand the trial, torment, tragedy, triumph and resolution that has forged the USA. An absolute must for any scholar of US history, or of US relations with Europe.
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Format: Paperback
It took me ten years, and I had to buy three copies of the book, but yesterday 7 June 2008, I finished Paul Johnson's big, fat doorstep of a history. It was very satisfying. My enthusiasm for starting again was kicked off by a visit to New York and Washington earlier this year.

Johnson is a journalist, and his prejudice makes for lively copy. Having read his account of each President I was rushing off to Wikipedia to see if other people agreed with his points of view. I like the way he shows that Prohibition stimulated the culture of organised crime, and helped to strengthen the immigrant communities. So without the Prohibition, no Godfather and no Sopranos.

He hates Clinton, loves Eisenhower. He hates Theodore Roosevelt and the Kennedys, and loves Richard Nixon. Many of his views are typical of a British Conservative in the 1990s. He doesn't seem to impressed by Martin Luther King. He's opposed to welfarism. Still, from his conclusions, he would have seen George W. Bush and the Second Iraq War coming. He refers to the "Jupiter Complex" - the American habit of dropping bombs on recalcitrant states that incur their wrath.

He explains the Americans intermittent love of persecution, and their love of freedom. He covers the differences between the North and the South, the peculiar history of the slave trade, the genius of the Founding Fathers, the grip of religion, and their passion for commerce. Johnson is interested in art and culture, and he has fascinating things to say about architecture, painting, literature and self-help books.

I feel I can go through the rest of my life with an excellent in-depth insight into the history of the greatest nation on earth.
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Format: Hardcover
Paul Johnson does not do things by halves. His sweeping, epic, history of the American people covers every aspect of the history of the USA one can think of. Starting with Sir Walter Ralegh and the first attempts to establish a colony at Raonoke, Virginia, progressing up to the era of the Revolution, and onward to the present day, or near enough (ending in 1996) Paul Johnson leaves no stone left unturned.
Paul Johnson does not simply provide a chronological, blow by blow account of events in the development of the United States. Rather, he examines the cultural,and industrial circumstances that fueled American progression to the country that it is today. Amongst these are the religious revivals of the 17th and 18th centuries, the invention of the Cotton Gin, the post Civil War industrial era, and the American melting pot, the ability to absorb and assimilate the various people who constantly emigrated and made the US the nation that it is today.
Paul Johnson is not one to leave out opinions. From his writing one can see that he holds no mythical, romanticized opinions about George Washington, viewing him as an entirely human figure, but manages to lavish praise upon the figures he admires, and deconstruct the ones for whome he feels little affinity.
Amongst the figures who do not fare so well are Woodrow Wilson, John F Kennedy, Lyndon B Johnson and Bill Clinton, but Johnson has a special affinity for Abe Lincoln, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.
Johnson is especially disdainful of new cultural, leftist trends, and has nothing positive to say about movements like affirmative action, or new cultural practices, such as the teaching of Ebonics on certain US Campuses.
Whether one enjoys this book or not may depend on one's political or cultural leanings.
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