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Over Here: The First World War and American Society by [Kennedy, David M.]
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Over Here: The First World War and American Society Kindle Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Length: 440 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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About the Author

David Kennedy is Donald J. MacLachlan Professor of History at Stanford University. He is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Freedom From Fear, a volume in the Oxford History of the United States series.

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  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1821 KB
  • Print Length: 440 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 25th anniversary edition (7 Oct. 2004)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003FK5PVQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #829,232 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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This is a great book, to which it is impossible to do justice in a review of this length. It includes many little known angles, such as the acquisition of thousands of German patents, sold at knock-down prices to US chemical and other industries, Also, there is fascinating stuff on the coal shortage in the winter of 1917/18, which led to all factories east of the Mississippi being closed down for four days so that trains could continue to run. This recalls some of the problems of the blockaded Central Powers - though far less excusable. Also how the cutting off of immigration led to the vast influx of southern blacks to northern cities, and the Berlin Wall-ish attempts of many southern communities to hold on to their cheap labour.

However, by far the best part is the first section, which recounts the grim tale of the war's impact on civil liberties. Kennedy gives many examples of the horrors, both by mob violence and what passed for process of law, befalling anyone showing the slightest flicker of dissent. They are too numerous to recount, but one is an absolute must. In 1917 film producer Robert Goldstein made a movie about the American Revolution, entitled "The Spirit of '76". A safely patriotic theme, one might suppose. But no. Prosecuted under the Espionage Act, Goldstein (a German Jew, so of course targeted by two separate classes of bigot) was sentenced to ten years in prison - because his film showed the Redcoats being nasty to Americans, at a time when Britain was an ally, so was held to undermine the war effort. Good ol' Mr Wilson graciously commuted the sentence - to three years. What comment is necessary? As a Brit, I almost fell out of my chair on discovering this gem.

Socialist Eugene Debs, of course, was even less lucky than Goldstein.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x98122984) out of 5 stars 39 reviews
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x981e31b0) out of 5 stars Excellent 25 Jun. 2000
By R. Albin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a fine work by the author of the Pulitzer winning "Freedom from Fear". In this book, Prof. Kennedy provides a thematic overview of the American experience in WWI. This is not a narrative history but an analysis of several important aspects of that experience. Topics include the effect of entry into the war and the war experience on the Progressive Movement; the impact of the war on the American economy, the American Labor movement, and the Federal Government; the experience of organizing the large army; the efforts to plan for a postwar world; and the ultimate failure of Wilson's efforts to make the US the leader of benign international order. Kennedy shows very well how the debate over war entry and splintered the Progressive movement. The suppression of dissent during and after the war dealt a serious blow to reformers and the liberal-left movement that had been the prewar engine of reform. Government efforts during the war were characterized by efforts to persuade business rather than developing a centralized economy, though central planning and coercion would probably have been necessary if the war had continued. There is a particularly good chapter on American efforts to use the war to establish American preeminence in international trade, followed by American withdrawal from that role. One defect of the book is that the thematic organization of the chapters leaves some important points unconnected. For example, in an early chapter Kennedy argues cogently that the turn to the right that accompanied the war, encouraged by his administration, would rob him ultimately of important allies for supporting his internationalism in the postwar period. At the end of the book, he makes similar points about Wilson's conduct towards European Liberal-Left movements but these two complementary points are never connected explicitly. Kennedy is an excellent writer and this book contains a great deal of first rate analysis. Recommended strongly.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b64ea3c) out of 5 stars The "Disillusionment" of Progressives 4 May 2003
By Brother Anansi - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"Over Here" is an important and clearly-written work in a much-neglected area of historical inquiry--the homefront during time of war in foreign lands. It provides a nice supplement to the classic accounts of WWI that focus more on the battlefields, like Barabara Tuchman's "The Guns of August."

Over Here describes the unthinkable degree of xenophobia and repression of dissent that the Wilson administration, particularly Postmaster General Albert Sidney Burleson and Attorney General Thomas W. Gregory, directed and encouraged, and recounts horrible tales, such as the Prager and Goddard incidents, that should live on forever as warnings against future state support of vigilantism and "100 Percent Americanism." This is especially relevant these days in light of Attorney General Ashcroft's war on civil liberties and the revival of the specter of 100 Percent Americanism by the famous xenophobe Pat Buchanan. While today's assaults on liberty are not yet nearly as dastardly as those during WWI, Over Here's historical record serves as a clear warning against repeating past errors and a stunning indictment of the enemies of open society, past and present.

The book also stands as a caution against the dangers of concentrated government power, particularly during wartime, and of excessive and naive confidence in the capacity of the government to do good. It confirms the Libertarian Harry Browne's warning: "Beware of politicians with good intentions."

President Wilson was a Progressive former professor who came to office with optimistic views on improving the lot of the common man by expanding the role of government in domestic affairs and actively promoting peace in the world. Early in his administration, Wilson's words inspired hope in socialists and other leftists around the world. It is particularly credible, therefore, when a fellow progressive/liberal academic like Professor Kennedy describes how, in practice, Wilson did not have the courage of his convictions and some of his ideas turned out not to work as well in the real world as they did in the lecture halls of academia. His behavior as President was characterized by trepidation and cowardice. Instead of prosperity and harmony at home and peace and unity in the world, fledgling labor unions and leftist dissent were ruthlessly crushed at home and the world remained bitterly divided after the end of a brutal and demoralizing war. Instead of progress for workers and a "war to end all wars," the international left was disillusioned and the seeds were sown for a second, more devastating war to come.

Over Here is a great work of scholarship that is also eminently readable and concise, so that both the historian and the layperson should enjoy it immensely. Despite the author's progressive slant, he applies a light touch in the book that should make it palatable for most conservatives, largely leaving the reader to make one's own conclusions, though the case is made sufficiently strongly that the conclusions are nearly inevitable. The author does eloquently summarize his case on the book jacket, saying the book is "in many ways a sad story, a tale of death, broken hopes, frustrated dreams, and of the curious defeat-in-victory that was Woodrow Wilson's and the nation's, bitter lot." This book well earned its recognition as a Pulitzer Prize Finalist.

"This is a war to end all wars." --Woodrow Wilson
"Only the dead have seen the end of war." --George Santayana
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x980a1dbc) out of 5 stars Great History 30 Jun. 1999
By seydlitz89 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As the author writes, World War I was an affair of the mind. Here is an excellent portrait of America in 1917 with warts and all. Professor Kennedy brings many interesting personalities of that time to life including John Dewey, Randolph Bourne, George Creel and many others. This book also contains the only good discussion of economic warfare as waged by the United States against Germany during 1917-18 that I've come across. Mitchell Palmer convinced Congress to seize control of thousands of U.S. chemical patents held by German firms or individuals. This amendment was passed on 4 November 1918, just seven days before the armistice. "Shortly thereafter he sold 4,500 lucrative patents at bargain-basement rates to the Chemical Foundation, a newly minted creation of the American chemical industry. (sound familiar?) The Foundation then licensed to member firms production rights under the various patents.. . Palmer provoked the German government to complain that his policies, 'were designed to destroy Germany's economic existence upon this continent.'" His handling of the military side, including mobilization and the Meuse Argonne offensive are also insightful. His view of Pershing and the effectiveness of the AEF will rouse some scorn from those who only wish to read unquestioning tales of American superiority and genius, but that is as it should be given the actual events.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x985bb048) out of 5 stars A very important book for Americans in the 20th Century 25 Feb. 1998
By R. Swanson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This not only an excellent book, but it contains stories and information that are critical to understanding the United States in the First World War. The trends and events of this rather short period (1917-1919) shaped much of the rest of the Century.
Highly recommended not only for military history fans, but for anyone wishing to understand American society in the 20th Century.
Kennedy has brought up many important points, including the role of government in the lives of Americans, and the control of the media: all issues of critical importance as we move on to the next century. Some of the events of those "far gone" times are bone-chilling, as we read about them 80 or so years along (and I'm not talking about life in the trenches of Europe!).
Highly recommended.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9809d2b8) out of 5 stars Not like Freedom From Fear 19 May 2003
By Schmerguls - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I so enjoyed Kennedy's Freedom From Fear that when I saw this book I wanted to read it. But it is not nearly as "popular" a work as Freedom from Fear. Two or three chapters are hard to get interested in, I thought. He does talk about the AEF's time in Europe, and seems much more deprecating toward it than is usual from American authors. For instance, The Defeat of Imperial Germany 1917-1918 by Rod Paschall, while it may over-emphasize the role of the AEF, is, I think a needed corrective to Kennedy's down-playing of the American role in World War One.
As the books Kennedy relies on have made clear (e.g., Opponents of War 1917-1918, by H. C. Peterson and Gilbert C. Fite), the record of the Wilson Administration in the field of civil liberties in wartime to a present-day viewer is sobering, the legal system seemingly surrendering to the war hysteria (as some today seem to again urge it do). The book also has an insightful discussion of the contrast between American writing about the war compared to the more pessimistic view of men who were more sated by their longer involvment in the hell which was the Western front. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of interesting stuff in this book--it is just that some chapters may not be overly exciting to a non-economist, for instance.
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