A History of the American People

Paperback | March 1, 1999

byPaul Johnson

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"The creation of the United States of America is the greatest of all human adventures," begins Paul Johnson's remarkable new American history. "No other national story holds such tremendous lessons, for the American people themselves and for the rest of mankind." Johnson's history is a reinterpretation of American history from the first settlements to the Clinton administration. It covers every aspect of U.S. history--politics; business and economics; art, literature and science; society and customs; complex traditions and religious beliefs. The story is told in terms of the men and women who shaped and led the nation and the ordinary people who collectively created its unique character. Wherever possible, letters, diaries, and recorded conversations are used to ensure a sense of actuality. "The book has new and often trenchant things to say about every aspect and period of America's past," says Johnson, "and I do not seek, as some historians do, to conceal my opinions."

Johnson's history presents John Winthrop, Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson, Cotton Mather, Franklin, Tom Paine, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Madison from a fresh perspective. It emphasizes the role of religion in American history and how early America was linked to England's history and culture and includes incisive portraits of Andrew Jackson, Chief Justice Marshall, Clay, Lincoln, and Jefferson Davis. Johnson shows how Grover Cleveland and Teddy Roosevelt ushered in the age of big business and industry and how Woodrow Wilson revolutionized the government's role. He offers new views of Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover and of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and his role as commander in chief during World War II. An examination of the unforeseen greatness of Harry Truman and reassessments of Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, and Bush follow. "Compulsively readable," said Foreign Affairs of Johnson's unique narrative skills and sharp profiles of people.

This is an in-depth portrait of a great people, from their fragile origins through their struggles for independence and nationhood, their heroic efforts and sacrifices to deal with the `organic sin' of slavery and the preservation of the Union to its explosive economic growth and emergence as a world power and its sole superpower. Johnson discusses such contemporary topics as the politics of racism, education, Vietnam, the power of the press, political correctness, the growth of litigation, and the rising influence of women. He sees Americans as a problem-solving people and the story of America as "essentially one of difficulties being overcome by intelligence and skill, by faith and strength of purpose, by courage and persistence...Looking back on its past, and forward to its future, the auguries are that it will not disappoint humanity."

This challenging narrative and interpretation of American history by the author of many distinguished historical works is sometimes controversial and always provocative. Johnson's views of individuals, events, themes, and issues are original, critical, and admiring, for he is, above all, a strong believer in the history and the destiny of the American people.

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"The creation of the United States of America is the greatest of all human adventures," begins Paul Johnson's remarkable new American history. "No other national story holds such tremendous lessons, for the American people themselves and for the rest of mankind." Johnson's history is a reinterpretation of American history from the firs...

Paul Johnson is a leading historian and journalist whose historical works have been translated into many languages. Born into a Roman Catholic family in Lancashire, England, he has remained a practicing Catholic and has covered every papal conclave since the 1950s. Among his books are Modern Times, A History of the Jews, Intellectuals,...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:1104 pages, 8.1 × 5.39 × 1.76 inPublished:March 1, 1999Publisher:Perennial

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0060930349

ISBN - 13:9780060930349

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Customer Reviews of A History of the American People

Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Bold, Irreverent, and Magisterial! As I write these words, I see before me piles of books of different subjects – a proud collection of a young bibliomaniac! Yet peculiarly enough, as a connoisseur of history and politics, I do not have many books on America. Of course, there are biographies of your usual suspects: Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, Roosevelts, Kennedys, Bushes and Regan etc. Comparatively, however, American history has never appealed me, as British history had succeeded in doing so when I was but eleven, or the Classical World, or even Russian, Indian and Chinese history. As an illustrious Anglo-American writer, Henry James, once - rather exaggeratedly (even jocosely) – scorned his native land by writing: “One might enumerate the items of history civilisation, as it exists in other countries, which are absent from the texture of American life, until it should become a wonder to know what was left… No sovereign, no court, no personal loyalty, no aristocracy, no church, no clergy, no army, no diplomatic service, no country gentlemen, no palaces, nor castles, nor manors, nor country houses, no parsonages, no thatched cottages no ivied ruins, no cathedrals, no abbeys, nor little Norman churches; no great universities, nor public schools – no Oxford, or Eton, or Harrow; no literature, no novels, no museums, no pictures, no political society, no sporting class – no Epsom or Ascot!” Paul Johnson has shattered Henry James’ accusations in his 1088 pages of a book! And in doing so, he has made me a Yankophile, for “A History of the American People” is a dazzling achievement. He has sewn a beautiful tapestry of over four-hundred years of American history– from a “European and the Transatlantic Adventure” to the “Triumph of Women.” Johnson has not merely documented famous presidents and administrators, but has written a profound and moving narration of America: its colonial administrators, its presidents, its writers and thinkers, its architects, its battles of war for peace, its commitment to freedom and justice, and above all its men and women – black, white, brown, virtuous, depraved, avaricious – all of them thrown in the “swirling maelstrom of history.” As American power is irreversibly declining with bewildering rapidity, perhaps it is best to look back at its history, which has held mankind in awe. And perhaps it is also best that I should end this review with the same words with which Johnson started his shimmering book: “The creation of the United States of America is the greatest of all human adventures.”
Date published: 2012-07-11

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Editorial Reviews

"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"