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Customer Review

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A factual but enthusiastic walk through America's history, 26 Nov. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: History of the American People (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. But Johnson has perhaps wisely stuck to the theme which he enjoys most, and is able to most thoroughly explore - America in the early days, when the ideals and projects of settlement and union were at their most defined and resilient, strong in the face of the adversity posed by colonialism, economic strife and racial division. And the author is not afraid to pose controversial viewpoints in respect of later periods, as illustrated by his coverage of Watergate, where he stages what amounts to a fascinating defence of the besieged Nixon.
For those with the time to spare to delve into, and digest, this work, Johnson's is a thoroughly rewarding history.
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