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The first–ever narrative nonfiction history of the House of Representatives, by the National Book Award–winning historian. Robert Remini, one of the preeminent historians of our times, was chosen by the Library of Congress to write this official – and fascinating – history. Throughout America's history, the House has played a central role in shaping the nation's destiny. In The first–ever narrative nonfiction history of the House of Representatives, by the National Book Award–winning historian. Robert Remini, one of the preeminent historians of our times, was chosen by the Library of Congress to write this official – and fascinating – history. Throughout America's history, the House has played a central role in shaping the nation's destiny. In our own time the impeachment hearings of President Clinton and the rise and fall of Newt Gingrich revealed, quite starkly, just how vital the House's constitutional powers remain. Violence, acrimony, triumph, and compromise litter the House's varied and illustrious past. Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, John Randolph, "Uncle Joe" Cannon, Sam Rayburn, and Tip O'Neill are just a few of the figures who have brought glory as well as ignominy to the House of Representatives. These leaders mastered the rules and folkways of the House and bent them to their own or the people's wills and needs. They are generally less well known than many of the Senate's leaders but their contributions and eccentricities are no less important and intriguing. The founders of our country created the House to reflect the will of the people. Out of chaos could emerge a national consensus that could bind the country together after first revealing the deep fissures between North and South and, in our day, among the Midwest, the South and the coastal regions. Over the centuries the powerful hold the Founding Fathers gave the House over the purse strings of the nation has forced its members to be conciliators and even statesmen in times of crisis. The essential drama of democracy – the struggle between principle and pragmatism – is showcased throughout the book and through it the history of America's successful experiment with democracy unfurls.


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The first–ever narrative nonfiction history of the House of Representatives, by the National Book Award–winning historian. Robert Remini, one of the preeminent historians of our times, was chosen by the Library of Congress to write this official – and fascinating – history. Throughout America's history, the House has played a central role in shaping the nation's destiny. In The first–ever narrative nonfiction history of the House of Representatives, by the National Book Award–winning historian. Robert Remini, one of the preeminent historians of our times, was chosen by the Library of Congress to write this official – and fascinating – history. Throughout America's history, the House has played a central role in shaping the nation's destiny. In our own time the impeachment hearings of President Clinton and the rise and fall of Newt Gingrich revealed, quite starkly, just how vital the House's constitutional powers remain. Violence, acrimony, triumph, and compromise litter the House's varied and illustrious past. Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, John Randolph, "Uncle Joe" Cannon, Sam Rayburn, and Tip O'Neill are just a few of the figures who have brought glory as well as ignominy to the House of Representatives. These leaders mastered the rules and folkways of the House and bent them to their own or the people's wills and needs. They are generally less well known than many of the Senate's leaders but their contributions and eccentricities are no less important and intriguing. The founders of our country created the House to reflect the will of the people. Out of chaos could emerge a national consensus that could bind the country together after first revealing the deep fissures between North and South and, in our day, among the Midwest, the South and the coastal regions. Over the centuries the powerful hold the Founding Fathers gave the House over the purse strings of the nation has forced its members to be conciliators and even statesmen in times of crisis. The essential drama of democracy – the struggle between principle and pragmatism – is showcased throughout the book and through it the history of America's successful experiment with democracy unfurls.

30 review for The House: The History of the House of Representatives

  1. 5 out of 5

    Phillip

    This book tries to walk the line between a reference book and a narrative history book -- I think it does entertain enough, and does cram the history of the America republic into one book, which is certainly no easy task. But I think there are more misses than hits - for a book that is suppose to be a history of the House, it meanders into the White House and Senate proceedings too much. I know you cannot ignore the other branches of government in telling the story of the House, but I think - es This book tries to walk the line between a reference book and a narrative history book -- I think it does entertain enough, and does cram the history of the America republic into one book, which is certainly no easy task. But I think there are more misses than hits - for a book that is suppose to be a history of the House, it meanders into the White House and Senate proceedings too much. I know you cannot ignore the other branches of government in telling the story of the House, but I think - especially those types who would read this book - know about those other histories. I also feel like we did not get to hear accounts from regular members of Congress, it was usually the leadership. All that said, I did enjoy the book (though the appendix calls the VP the president pro tempore of the Senate when he is the PRESIDENT of the Senate, there is literally another person who is the pres pro tem). It was interesting to learn about the different Speakers, and then majority/minority leaders, the history of the House, how the operations changed over time. Also, apparently the issue of tariff has been the most debated issue in the history of American government for the longest time. So, if you are an uber-government nerd, check this out.

  2. 5 out of 5

    David Eppenstein

    Excellent history of the People's House and the people that served there. Excellent history of the People's House and the people that served there.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Canfield

    This narrative history of the United States is essentially a history of the country told through the eyes of the U.S. House of Representatives. In the hands of a less skilled writer, such a narrative could easily have been unwieldy and collapsed under the esoteric details inherent in such a project. But Remini (the author of a brilliant trilogy on the life of the seventh president, Andrew Jackson) pulls it off nicely. The strongest points of The House dealt with its examination of how various Hou This narrative history of the United States is essentially a history of the country told through the eyes of the U.S. House of Representatives. In the hands of a less skilled writer, such a narrative could easily have been unwieldy and collapsed under the esoteric details inherent in such a project. But Remini (the author of a brilliant trilogy on the life of the seventh president, Andrew Jackson) pulls it off nicely. The strongest points of The House dealt with its examination of how various House Speakers have run the institution. Remini makes the esteem in which Representatives view their traditions clear, and the efforts he made at describing the different personalities and mindsets that have run the Chamber since the 1780s were illuminating. Remini, who is also the writer of one of the greatest Henry Clay biographies ever penned, delves into just how critical The Great Compromiser was in shaping the House's future trajectory. Interestingly, one of the narrative's top notch segments dealt with Reconstruction; the struggle between Radical Republicans like Thaddeus Stevens in the House and the Johnson administration were brutal fights. The author makes it a point to observe firsts in the House, such as the election of Joseph Rainey (the first African-American elected to the House) in 1870. The late 19th century made for surprisingly compelling reading; "Czar" Thomas Reed's efforts at making his imprint on the House, and the perception of "Uncle Joe" Cannon as a man who valued obstruction and rarely hesitated to use his appointment power to achieve his own ends, were parts of our country's history I was only minimally of prior to reading this work. Nicholas Longworth (son-in-law of Theodore Roosevelt) was an individual I had only seen referenced in passing, largely from references made to him during books relating to Teddy Roosevelt. But he plays a starring role on the chapter dealing with the years 1925-1931, which sheds light on his reign. It was a time of which Senator Henry Cabot Lodge observed "The prestige of the House grew amazingly in recent years, and the major credit unquestionably belongs to Mr. Longworth...Time and time again the last few years it has been the House which led the way toward sound legislation. It is unmistakably to the House that the country has looked to for legislative leadership." Considering the frequent intra-legislative branch jockeying between the House and Senate, words like these from such a respected Senator only reinforce Remini's assertion that Longworth should be considered one of the greatest House Speakers in history. Another Speaker Remini clearly respected was Sam Rayburn, the longest serving House leader in U.S. history. He paints an image of Rayburn as someone who, though a loyal Democrat, tried to do things that were right (but perhaps for the wrong reason) on issues such as civil and voting rights. Rayburn's service during the Great Depression and Second World War are set up as a time where he did what he could to create successful coalitions for the moving forward of his country. Rayburn was not above sleights of hand when it came to aiding FDR in preparation for potential mobilization for war. His parliamentary trick to assure a 203-202 vote in 1941 for Joint Resolution 290 (an eighteen month extension of service for draftees in case they were needed for a possible war between the U.S. and Germany/Japan) was shown to be an instance of a man who knows the rules of the House inside and out spinning them to his advantage. Such stalwarts of the House--Carl Vinson in the mid-20th century was a man who zealously guarded the military budget, and Adam Clayton Powell was someone who, though his career ended on a bad note, was willing to stick to his civil rights stances even when it made Democrats nervous. The holding together of the segregationist Southern Democrats with their party's allies in the North and West was a fascinating balancing act to read about. The shenanigans pulled to keep various civil rights bills from leaving committees by men like Howard D. Smith of Virginia, attempts ultimately overcome by men like Speaker Rayburn and President Lyndon Johnson, made it clear how far any would go to maintain separate and unequal policies. The book goes through the mid-20-oughts, and Remini detects a drop off in like leadership following Tip O'Neill's departure as Speaker. Although he does his best to be nonpartisan, he makes it clear that the arrival of bomb throwers like Newt Gingrich and his conservative allies (and the tactics they would often employ) went a long way to creating a lot of the dysfunction and distrust rampant in D.C. today. He also indicates Jim Wright was a poor follow-up act to O'Neill's reign, a time when reaching across the aisle was a dying (but not fully deceased) art. This stellar book is highly recommendable. It is a new angle with which to view America's history from, and one which spotlights elements of it frequently overlooked in books of a different character. -Andrew Canfield Denver, Colorado

  4. 5 out of 5

    David Crow

    Robert Remini does the almost impossible job of making a thorough history of an important institution into highly interesting reading. Not an easy task. Remini brings the House alive full of its many characters in over two hundred and forty plus years of existence. Whether a casual or serious student of American politics, you will gain a deeper appreciation of what makes Congress tick. I highly recommend.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Frank Stein

    This book was funded by the House of Representatives itself, and from that I expected a somewhat dry institutional history. That is at least partially accurate. The book marches through its chapters with a steady lockstep, covering every decade in about 25 pages, and focusing on the Speaker, political leaders, and a few key events in each time period. It relies on a pretty rigid form and adheres closely to it. But in covering the entire 200-odd years of American history through the perspective of This book was funded by the House of Representatives itself, and from that I expected a somewhat dry institutional history. That is at least partially accurate. The book marches through its chapters with a steady lockstep, covering every decade in about 25 pages, and focusing on the Speaker, political leaders, and a few key events in each time period. It relies on a pretty rigid form and adheres closely to it. But in covering the entire 200-odd years of American history through the perspective of one-half of Congress, Remini shows how much of typical the history we've all been taught truly revolves around Congress itself. This makes some of the book redolent of an American history 101 textbook, but by focusing on the players who shaped that history, and by giving the House a continuity that one cannot read about elsewhere, Remini shows how important the everyday operations of this institution were to the nation. I didn't know that it was Speaker Thomas Reed's reforms on the "disappearing quorum" in the 1890s that allowed House Republicans, and their reformist president Theodore Roosevelt, to push through all the early Progressive Era laws on railroad and food and drug regulation. And I didn't know that it was the extraordinarily long session called by Woodrow Wilson in 1913 that allowed him to create the Federal Reserve and the Income Tax. I also learned about 1970s era House Speaker Carl Albert's drinking problem, and how that stymied Democratic legislation in that decade. These minor procedural details and biographical quirks fundamentally shape the way the entire country operates, and Remini shows it. I read this book because I had just read about Johnson in the Senate and I thought I should try to balance it out. I'm glad I did.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    The House provides an accessible summary of the political history of the United States through the lens of the House of Representatives. It covers the key controversies of Presidential power, state vs. federal and legislative battles between parties. It does an excellent job of looking at how the role of the Speaker has changed and focusing on the two most powerful speakers Henry Clay and Sam Rayburn. It is very easy to read and quick for those with a good background in US history who can focus The House provides an accessible summary of the political history of the United States through the lens of the House of Representatives. It covers the key controversies of Presidential power, state vs. federal and legislative battles between parties. It does an excellent job of looking at how the role of the Speaker has changed and focusing on the two most powerful speakers Henry Clay and Sam Rayburn. It is very easy to read and quick for those with a good background in US history who can focus on the complexities of the house. I agree with many of the other reviewers that for those who have a major interest in US history will find this lacking in substance as the author could have gone into much greater detail. Overall though it provides a decent summary and can be used as a jumping point for finding what other areas in US political history one wishes to read further into.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Allen Garvin

    After The Most Exclusive Club, above, I looked through the shelves at Borders for a book on the House, and got this. Overall, it's reasonably satisfying, though a better title might be 'The History of the United States with special emphasis on the house'. There are a lot of asides about American history that has little or nothing to do with the workings of the actual House. The best parts, the most substantive, are the sections on the Jacksonian era and the period right before the Civil War. It After The Most Exclusive Club, above, I looked through the shelves at Borders for a book on the House, and got this. Overall, it's reasonably satisfying, though a better title might be 'The History of the United States with special emphasis on the house'. There are a lot of asides about American history that has little or nothing to do with the workings of the actual House. The best parts, the most substantive, are the sections on the Jacksonian era and the period right before the Civil War. It's at its weakest at a couple periods, the early House (apart from its first term, which is informative) to about 1828, and the modern 20th century, pre-WWII House.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Julian Haigh

    Great book on the history of the House of Representatives in the states. From the very beginning of the republic there was dispute around slavery with the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Masterful speakers and committee members are highlighted and you get a feel of the pulse of the institution as it goes through various stages and rules. Fantastic book for a look at the broad-scope US history to act as a refresher.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    A phenomenal one volume history of the US House of Representatives. All the inside stories of the House, past and present, make the words jump off the page. The institution comes alive in this excellent work by Remini. If you want to know how the House came to be the House it is today, this is the book for you.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Neil

    The stories about the early House sessions are very entertaining and for me, the best part. The book is by no means a comprehensive guide to the House, but it gives a nice introduction to the different eras and personalities within those eras.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    Although a documented work, it lacks the scholarly vigor expected.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Carl Johnson

    Good way to put current politics in proper context.

  13. 5 out of 5

    David C Ward

    I read this a while ago and am using it now to reference congressional history for a project I’m working on.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rocky

    Great book if you are Gov/History geek...otherwise...prepare for a map.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Pretty good for covering two hundred years of legislators, debates, momentous legislation, fires, stabbings, shootings, and other everyday goings-on at the Capitol.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Warchal

    Very accessible history of the House of Representatives.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Yichen

    Stopped at Chapter 13

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cole Keenum

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dan

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sjefmaestro

  21. 4 out of 5

    Joost Schriek

  22. 4 out of 5

    L

  23. 5 out of 5

    Pat

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alex Byrd

  25. 5 out of 5

    Chris Weigl

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rami

  27. 5 out of 5

    Michael Barker

  28. 4 out of 5

    Exapno Mapcase

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jackie Chang

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tom

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