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Beginning in 1945, America rocketed through a quarter-century of extraordinary economic growth, experiencing an amazing boom that soared to unimaginable heights in the 1960s. At one point, in the late 1940s, American workers produced 57 percent of the planet's steel, 62 percent of the oil, 80 percent of the automobiles. The U.S. then had three-fourths of the world's gold s Beginning in 1945, America rocketed through a quarter-century of extraordinary economic growth, experiencing an amazing boom that soared to unimaginable heights in the 1960s. At one point, in the late 1940s, American workers produced 57 percent of the planet's steel, 62 percent of the oil, 80 percent of the automobiles. The U.S. then had three-fourths of the world's gold supplies. English Prime Minister Edward Heath later said that the United States in the post-War era enjoyed "the greatest prosperity the world has ever known." It was a boom that produced a national euphoria, a buoyant time of grand expectations and an unprecedented faith in our government, in our leaders, and in the American dream--an optimistic spirit which would be shaken by events in the '60s and '70s, and particularly by the Vietnam War. Now, in Grand Expectations, James T. Patterson has written a highly readable and balanced work that weaves the major political, cultural, and economic events of the period into a superb portrait of America from 1945 through Watergate. Here is an era teeming with memorable events--from the bloody campaigns in Korea and the bitterness surrounding McCarthyism to the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, to the Vietnam War, Watergate, and Nixon's resignation. Patterson excels at portraying the amazing growth after World War II--the great building boom epitomized by Levittown (the largest such development in history) and the baby boom (which exploded literally nine months after V-J Day)--as well as the resultant buoyancy of spirit reflected in everything from streamlined toasters, to big, flashy cars, to the soaring, butterfly roof of TWA's airline terminal in New York. And he shows how this upbeat, can-do mood spurred grander and grander expectations as the era progressed. Of course, not all Americans shared in this economic growth, and an important thread running through the book is an informed and gripping depiction of the civil rights movement--from the electrifying Brown v. Board of Education decision, to the violent confrontations in Little Rock, Birmingham, and Selma, to the landmark civil rights acts of 1964 and 1965. Patterson also shows how the Vietnam War--which provoked LBJ's growing credibility gap, vast defense spending that dangerously unsettled the economy, and increasingly angry protests--and a growing rights revolution (including demands by women, Hispanics, the poor, Native Americans, and gays) triggered a backlash that widened hidden rifts in our society, rifts that divided along racial, class, and generational lines. And by Nixon's resignation, we find a national mood in stark contrast to the grand expectations of ten years earlier, one in which faith in our leaders and in the attainability of the American dream was greatly shaken. The Oxford History of the United States The Oxford History of the United States is the most respected multi-volume history of our nation. The series includes three Pulitzer Prize winners, a New York Times bestseller, and winners of the Bancroft and Parkman Prizes. The Atlantic Monthly has praised it as "the most distinguished series in American historical scholarship," a series that "synthesizes a generation's worth of historical inquiry and knowledge into one literally state-of-the-art book." Conceived under the general editorship of C. Vann Woodward and Richard Hofstadter, and now under the editorship of David M. Kennedy, this renowned series blends social, political, economic, cultural, diplomatic, and military history into coherent and vividly written narrative.


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Beginning in 1945, America rocketed through a quarter-century of extraordinary economic growth, experiencing an amazing boom that soared to unimaginable heights in the 1960s. At one point, in the late 1940s, American workers produced 57 percent of the planet's steel, 62 percent of the oil, 80 percent of the automobiles. The U.S. then had three-fourths of the world's gold s Beginning in 1945, America rocketed through a quarter-century of extraordinary economic growth, experiencing an amazing boom that soared to unimaginable heights in the 1960s. At one point, in the late 1940s, American workers produced 57 percent of the planet's steel, 62 percent of the oil, 80 percent of the automobiles. The U.S. then had three-fourths of the world's gold supplies. English Prime Minister Edward Heath later said that the United States in the post-War era enjoyed "the greatest prosperity the world has ever known." It was a boom that produced a national euphoria, a buoyant time of grand expectations and an unprecedented faith in our government, in our leaders, and in the American dream--an optimistic spirit which would be shaken by events in the '60s and '70s, and particularly by the Vietnam War. Now, in Grand Expectations, James T. Patterson has written a highly readable and balanced work that weaves the major political, cultural, and economic events of the period into a superb portrait of America from 1945 through Watergate. Here is an era teeming with memorable events--from the bloody campaigns in Korea and the bitterness surrounding McCarthyism to the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, to the Vietnam War, Watergate, and Nixon's resignation. Patterson excels at portraying the amazing growth after World War II--the great building boom epitomized by Levittown (the largest such development in history) and the baby boom (which exploded literally nine months after V-J Day)--as well as the resultant buoyancy of spirit reflected in everything from streamlined toasters, to big, flashy cars, to the soaring, butterfly roof of TWA's airline terminal in New York. And he shows how this upbeat, can-do mood spurred grander and grander expectations as the era progressed. Of course, not all Americans shared in this economic growth, and an important thread running through the book is an informed and gripping depiction of the civil rights movement--from the electrifying Brown v. Board of Education decision, to the violent confrontations in Little Rock, Birmingham, and Selma, to the landmark civil rights acts of 1964 and 1965. Patterson also shows how the Vietnam War--which provoked LBJ's growing credibility gap, vast defense spending that dangerously unsettled the economy, and increasingly angry protests--and a growing rights revolution (including demands by women, Hispanics, the poor, Native Americans, and gays) triggered a backlash that widened hidden rifts in our society, rifts that divided along racial, class, and generational lines. And by Nixon's resignation, we find a national mood in stark contrast to the grand expectations of ten years earlier, one in which faith in our leaders and in the attainability of the American dream was greatly shaken. The Oxford History of the United States The Oxford History of the United States is the most respected multi-volume history of our nation. The series includes three Pulitzer Prize winners, a New York Times bestseller, and winners of the Bancroft and Parkman Prizes. The Atlantic Monthly has praised it as "the most distinguished series in American historical scholarship," a series that "synthesizes a generation's worth of historical inquiry and knowledge into one literally state-of-the-art book." Conceived under the general editorship of C. Vann Woodward and Richard Hofstadter, and now under the editorship of David M. Kennedy, this renowned series blends social, political, economic, cultural, diplomatic, and military history into coherent and vividly written narrative.

30 review for Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974

  1. 5 out of 5

    Craig Werner

    The title accurately identifies the unifying theme of this massive synthetic history. Patterson argues that from the end of World War II through the sad endgame of Watergate, the keynote of American history is economic growth and increased expectations in almost every realm of life: race relations (the civil rights movement), foreign policy (the nation's purported ability to impose its will and/or freedom on the world without necessarily bothering to learn the difference between Venezuela and Vi The title accurately identifies the unifying theme of this massive synthetic history. Patterson argues that from the end of World War II through the sad endgame of Watergate, the keynote of American history is economic growth and increased expectations in almost every realm of life: race relations (the civil rights movement), foreign policy (the nation's purported ability to impose its will and/or freedom on the world without necessarily bothering to learn the difference between Venezuela and Vietnam), in personal and group "rights," in material possessions. As with any through argument for an 800-page book, there are places where the dense texture of reality strains the generality, but never in a way that seriously derails the book. I was reading it part for the information--I'm fairly well grounded in the historical literature Patterson relies on--and partially for insight into how to put together this much material in a single volume With that in mind, a couple of reflections. First, Patterson spends a bit more time than I would on the "great man" approach to history, especially in his emphasis on the personalities and policies of the Presidents from Truman to Nixon. I understand the temptation; they're a near-Shakespearean gallery of character types, as interesting for their failures and limitations as for their successes. But, especially when he reaches the sixties, Paterson lets the social and economic story recede a bit too far into the background. And he's simply not very good on the culture/counterculture of the sixties. I'm going to notice that because it's my own central interest, but like most white historians, he pretty much misses the significance of African American music. That's tied to a more serious limitation, which is his reduction of Black Power to the charismatic leadership; at least as much of its importance has to do with its impact on the everyday life of black people and its huge impact on areas of American culture where it's not obvious. For example, when assessing the legacies of the era, Patterson gives passing attention to the greater realm of personal expression that opened up in the seventies and after, but he doesn't make the connection. That's quibbling over something that's not irrelevant, but also isn't central. Similarly, I'm not entirely satisfied with Patterson's treatment of the rise of feminism or with the New Left, which he associates primarily with SDS. Again, not wrong, just not nuanced enough for my taste. I'd add the rise of the conservative right to the list of things I wished had gotten more attention. We get a cardboard version of Barry Goldwater and almost no attention to what the rightward shift of the GOP during the decade. That's the cost of the time and attention paid to the presidents: not enough attention to some of the events that appear secondary at the time but set the stage for major events later. On the other hand, the chapters tracking the post-War trials of Truman, Joe McCarthy, Eisenhower carried me along with very few "wait a minute" moments. Probably the biggest change the book created in my sketch of the world concerns Eisenhower, who emerges--convincingly--as a sharper politician and tactician than I'd credited him with. Patterson does a very good job with the cultural shifts of the 50s, the rise of the suburbs, the impact of television. No major problems with his treatment of Vietnam or the mainstream civil rights Movement (though research that wasn't available when he published the book in 1996 would lead to a greater emphasis on women in the movement and a more nuanced notion of Black Power--see the books by Danielle McGuire, Timothy Tyson and Peniel Joseph for follow-up). I'm still thinking about the emphasis he puts on the "Rights Revolution" as the keynote of the late 60s, but it's an intriguing phrasing with much to recommend it. Like most academic historians, Patterson's much more sympathetic to Kennedy than I am, and I don't think he captures LBJ's complexity adequately. That doesn't keep him from presenting most of the facts that lead me to differing judgements. Can't really ask much more from a book this ambitious. It's rare for a synthetic history to win a Bancroft Prize, but all things considered, Grand Expectations deserved it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Million

    This is a good book. Patterson does an excellent job of flushing out all of the disparate groups that came together - and opposed each at various times - to form the Civil Right movement. It seems that today, if Americans think of Civil Rights, they seem only to think of Martin Luther King, Jr. The movement was so much more than him, although obviously he was a great leader who inspired millions of people. Patterson details how the various factions were forced to acknowledge each others' differe This is a good book. Patterson does an excellent job of flushing out all of the disparate groups that came together - and opposed each at various times - to form the Civil Right movement. It seems that today, if Americans think of Civil Rights, they seem only to think of Martin Luther King, Jr. The movement was so much more than him, although obviously he was a great leader who inspired millions of people. Patterson details how the various factions were forced to acknowledge each others' different approaches in order to accomplish their respective missions. Patterson gives a fair impression of Eisenhower - knocking him, in my opinion rightfully so, for not embracing Civil Rights and being more willing to influence people as only he could during the 1950s. Patterson also is neutral in his appraisal of Lyndon Johnson - acknowledging that his legislative accomplishments were really exemplary while at the same time he was over-selling his Great Society. And, of course, the disaster of Vietnam. It is apparent to me that Patterson does not think highly of Truman. He mostly disparages him and leaves one with the impression that he was a bungler and in over his head. On the contrary, I think Truman was a bold leader and, while initially trying to feel his way around after FDR's death, did a great job. He was thrust into an awful situation, without much knowledge of events due to FDR's penchant for keeping everyone in the dark. Also, another shortcoming is the all-too-brief treatment that Patterson gives to both Kennedy assassinations - especially JFK's. That was a seminal moment and a major turning point in American history. Yet Patterson devotes only a few pages to the event. He could have, and I think should have, gone into much more detail on that tragic occurrence. All in all, a solid book. This is the third volume that I have read of the Oxford History series; the previous two books were stronger in their subject matter than this one was - with the exception of the Civil Rights discussion.

  3. 4 out of 5

    AC

    I agree with some of the other readers that this book in the Oxford series did not have the same "punch" as McPherson's "Battle Cry of Freedom," for example, but it still was a great survey of this very pivotal period in American history. It touched upon all the major events, incidents and trends of the era. Patterson took some complicated events that not only had economic and political impact but social ramifications, as well. Patterson did a great job stressing how Vietnam helped spoil the great I agree with some of the other readers that this book in the Oxford series did not have the same "punch" as McPherson's "Battle Cry of Freedom," for example, but it still was a great survey of this very pivotal period in American history. It touched upon all the major events, incidents and trends of the era. Patterson took some complicated events that not only had economic and political impact but social ramifications, as well. Patterson did a great job stressing how Vietnam helped spoil the great expectations that Americans had developed during this era. Vietnam was the number one cause of the economic "stagflation" hat hit the country in the 70s. It was also disconcerting to read how our Presidents totally disregarded regions of the world because they were to busy worrying about a Worldwide Communist plot that did not exist. It was also heartbreaking to see how the country divided along class and racial and ethnic lines when it came to civil rights and the war and how politicians used this division to their political advantage. It's amazing how the post-war period starts with euphoria, "we can do anything" attitude and then ends on a completely different note. This is the story of how the people lost respect, trust and belief in the government and it's institutions.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Umar Farooq

    A very important book to read for any follower of contemporary US politics. The author has done his job immaculately (damn thats a mouthful but could not think of another word right now). The book starts in 1945 with freshly nuked Japan and rather unfriendly Stalin and ends in 1974 with Nixon resigning due to Watergate. In between happens American economic miracle, start of cold war, Korean war, civil rights movement and Vietnam war. These are defining moments of post WW2 world and we are living A very important book to read for any follower of contemporary US politics. The author has done his job immaculately (damn thats a mouthful but could not think of another word right now). The book starts in 1945 with freshly nuked Japan and rather unfriendly Stalin and ends in 1974 with Nixon resigning due to Watergate. In between happens American economic miracle, start of cold war, Korean war, civil rights movement and Vietnam war. These are defining moments of post WW2 world and we are living very much in the shadow of these colossal events. The author focuses in depth on the American personalities involved during these times. My favorites are Lyndon B. Johnson, Kennedy and Nixon. And ofcourse J Edgar Hoover. And Kessinger. All these ambitious men were avid players of high politics juiced up on nuclear fuel. It was intense. One person, Robert McNamara, stands out due to his original thoughts and personality. Other people you will encounter and MacArthur, Eisenhower, Martin Luther King Jr (Great guy, very powerful speaker and tactician) and Malcolm X who gets shot in like three minutes so that all from his side. Well many people get shot in this book. I felt especially bad for Kennedys. Also the women's right movement started during this period and one has to admire those females who overcame sexism even from their own allies. And many more exciting people. One downside of the book is that Castro, Stalin, Khrushchev and Ho Chi Minh (a phantom not well described in the book but always in the background) are the only non-Americans appearing in the book. Overall a great read and very relevant today.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Alkire

    Good enough but awfully conventional…This is a sweeping history of the postwar US up to 1974. It’s massive, but it’s standard. The writing is readable enough and there are a few details about the era which I wasn’t aware. But, the analysis is dull and conventional…no new interpretations of the era and in fact, the author is more opinionated than most surveys like this one warrant. He clearly dislikes Democrats and the youth culture of the period…So, in many ways, this book was a disappointment. Good enough but awfully conventional…This is a sweeping history of the postwar US up to 1974. It’s massive, but it’s standard. The writing is readable enough and there are a few details about the era which I wasn’t aware. But, the analysis is dull and conventional…no new interpretations of the era and in fact, the author is more opinionated than most surveys like this one warrant. He clearly dislikes Democrats and the youth culture of the period…So, in many ways, this book was a disappointment. I give this one a 3. It’s readable and I would give it to someone who wanted to learn about the postwar United States from scratch, but if you know anything about the time, this book is a waste. It doesn’t help that the author is more opinionated than the Oxford Series usually has and in fact, the author has apparently written nothing much about the era in question. So, that’s on the Oxford Series editors for poor author judgement.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Florence Millo

    Grand Expectations by James Patterson I cannot overstate how much I enjoyed this history of the United States from the end of World War II to 1974.  I am a baby boomer and this book covers the period of my childhood and youth.  I read the book slowly because I remember so much of the period.  Civil rights, school desegregation,  the assassinations of John and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Vietnam, feminism, Watrgate, and Nixon's resignation.  The Cold War and the nuclear arms race.  Wow, Grand Expectations by James Patterson I cannot overstate how much I enjoyed this history of the United States from the end of World War II to 1974.  I am a baby boomer and this book covers the period of my childhood and youth.  I read the book slowly because I remember so much of the period.  Civil rights, school desegregation,  the assassinations of John and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Vietnam, feminism, Watrgate, and Nixon's resignation.  The Cold War and the nuclear arms race.  Wow, it was quite a ride! Excellent book, well researched, written to be easily read and understood. I am planning to read other books in this Oxford History of the United States series. 

  7. 4 out of 5

    Piker7977

    Grand Expectations is a straightforward history of America's postwar years (1945-1974). Patterson does not have any major surprises as he focuses on how the U.S. had a euphoric optimism, "grand expectations", to accomplish just about anything the country set her mind to. There were a variety of issues that undermined this ideal, perhaps most importantly political polarization, which leave a lasting impression on the reader. While an overall success story, the postwar era was hardly a period of p Grand Expectations is a straightforward history of America's postwar years (1945-1974). Patterson does not have any major surprises as he focuses on how the U.S. had a euphoric optimism, "grand expectations", to accomplish just about anything the country set her mind to. There were a variety of issues that undermined this ideal, perhaps most importantly political polarization, which leave a lasting impression on the reader. While an overall success story, the postwar era was hardly a period of perfection that so many nostalgic and romanticized accounts present. This is also a good place to gather sources written before 1995. Patterson is very reliant on secondary sources, but many of them look interesting and worth the hunt to find copies.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    I bought this book (I have it in both audio and hardcover) because I wanted an objective narrative history of the U.S. to balance those opinions that are narrower in viewpoint. Well, the book delivered, but not much more. It must be difficult to write history that’s so recent. Towards the end of the book I was remembering the events when they actually happened, and I’m sure the author is older than me. Nonetheless, I was disappointed that there were no piercing insights or fresh perspectives, as I bought this book (I have it in both audio and hardcover) because I wanted an objective narrative history of the U.S. to balance those opinions that are narrower in viewpoint. Well, the book delivered, but not much more. It must be difficult to write history that’s so recent. Towards the end of the book I was remembering the events when they actually happened, and I’m sure the author is older than me. Nonetheless, I was disappointed that there were no piercing insights or fresh perspectives, as there had been in the two previous Oxford American history volumes I’ve read, Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson (Civil War) and Freedom From Fear by David Kennedy (Depression & WW II). One problem with the book is that the author has difficulty dealing with popular movements unless he can identify people or organizations to exemplify them. Even when he does, he associates them too closely. For instance, he frequently names the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) as a leader of student protests, whereas most of the protests were started by the students of the schools themselves. (He writes, "The collapse of SDS did not signify the end of anti-war activity in the United States." Well, of course it didn't.) As the 1960s and 1970s were marked by many social change movements, this is a serious problem with the book. In general, Patterson seems more comfortable writing about individuals, especially presidents (the "great man" approach to history) than in looking at events as a whole. Although he is careful to track shifting political winds, he says not a word about the significant realignment of party loyalties in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Yes, he does mention en passant that some Dixiecrats defected to the Republican Party, but, amazingly, he doesn’t discuss the enormous electoral consequences of this move (it wasn’t just politicians who switched loyalties, it was also millions of voters). What it did was destroy the Democrats’ coalition of northern liberals, union members, blacks, and the solid south—a catastrophe from which the party has still not recovered. (It’s significant that the only Democratic presidents who were elected for the remainder of the century were both Southerners.) One thing that shocked me was the contempt the author had for the space program. He mentions it only three times, twice stating that efforts like the moon landing and the space station did nothing to advance scientific knowledge. That’s not true. NASA’s work brought us a wealth of new information about our universe, enabled such critical innovations as communications satellites, and boosted the development of new technologies, especially those related to computers. And on a more prosaic level, it represented a thrilling advance in human history, being the first time that we had sent people and intelligent machines beyond our own atmosphere. You’d think, at least, that the author would have jumped at the chance to reiterate how Americans’ “grand expectations”—a phrase he used so often that it made me wonder whether he got a bonus for doing so—were expanded further.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    Oh goody! I've read this book pretty much cover to cover now. Love that description of LBJ stroking his own bust. In fact, his descriptions of all the presidents are very good. A true tour-de-force and with a simple narrative. Older review: Skipped a bit here and there, but this kind of book invites that. Patterson's central point was how America had a spirit of optimism after World War II and had "Grand Expectations" for its future which united it. In the sixties and seventies, this broke down, e Oh goody! I've read this book pretty much cover to cover now. Love that description of LBJ stroking his own bust. In fact, his descriptions of all the presidents are very good. A true tour-de-force and with a simple narrative. Older review: Skipped a bit here and there, but this kind of book invites that. Patterson's central point was how America had a spirit of optimism after World War II and had "Grand Expectations" for its future which united it. In the sixties and seventies, this broke down, especially with Vietnam. I remember as a fun, insightful, and thorough history of fairly recent events that perhaps we can begin to look back with a bit more 'hindsight.'

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dave N

    This was a good overview of the period, but it lacked the flair of previous entries in the "Oxford History of the United States" series. The writing is competent, but the thematic chapters are too condense and their organization feels awkward. Obviously it's difficult to shift back and forth between chronological history (which tended to focus on Presidents' terms of office) and thematic history (which focused on social issues), but previous books in the series did it better, in my opinion.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    This was an informative read about an interesting era, but it wasn't written with the verve that some of the other volumes in this series had. And as a pet peeve, I get that the author's central thesis was that the American people had ""grand expectations" for their lives and their country during this time, but seeing the phrase literally every other page was distracting and cheesy.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas T-R IV

    I read this book at a very ignorant state in my life which probably inflates my opinion of a most likely mundane historical text.

  13. 5 out of 5

    David

    Least impressive of the histories I've read that make up the Oxford History of the United States.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    A decent, but not great, review of US from 1945 to 1974. Too much detail and over use-of statistics in some cases. Author also interjects his opinions / bias that are at times over stated.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Listened to via Books-on-Tape. While faulting Paterson for missing an opportunity to show the intersections of public and private life, to merge popular culture with politics and to place women's lives on an equal footing with men's, Elaine Taylor May still calls it a balanced and moderate account of the first three decades of the post war world. Charles Alexander also sees the account as balanced and "judicious." By starting with a chapter on "Veterans, Ethnics, Blacks and Women," Patterson sets Listened to via Books-on-Tape. While faulting Paterson for missing an opportunity to show the intersections of public and private life, to merge popular culture with politics and to place women's lives on an equal footing with men's, Elaine Taylor May still calls it a balanced and moderate account of the first three decades of the post war world. Charles Alexander also sees the account as balanced and "judicious." By starting with a chapter on "Veterans, Ethnics, Blacks and Women," Patterson sets the tone for the rest of the book. which is the account of "grand expectations" excited by the triumph in WWII and buoyed by the remarkable post-war economic boom. It was, as May points out, often the disparity between these grand expectations and the ability of the government to meet these expectations that lead to many of the rights revolution that grew in the land. Rhetoric about American liberty, it would seem, often outstripped the actual commitment of America's leaders to deliver social equality to all regardless of race, ethnicity, class or gender. In his review for Reviews in American History, Walter Hixson points out some of the key issues which Patterson addresses in putting forward his "grand expectations" thesis. On the Cold War, Patterson finds that it was close to inevitable. Truman may have added to the apocalyptic character of the conflict, but Stalin bears much of the blame. The Korean War, despite many errors along the way was essentially a necessary war to stop North Korean aggression. In line with recent scholarship that revives Ike's powers as a statesman, his assessment of Eisenhower is quite favorable. The Red Scare popularly known as McCarthyism is set in a larger cultural context, with Ike getting a slight chiding for not taking Tail Gunner Joe on earlier in his presidency. He is artfully able to catch the mood of the times for the common folk in pointing to the importance of prosperity, against the critiques of America's self-appointed elites. For people getting their first home, the alienation of the intelligentsia meant little. Yet, he is writing top-down history and there is little in this very think volume of grass roots history. He acknowledges the contribution of grass roots activism to the Civil Rights cause but focus on the national leadership. Ike resisted Brown (1954) believing that his appointment of Earl Warren was the single biggest mistake of his administration. The Kennedy administration was haltingly converted to limited support of civil rights. It was LBJ who emerges as the real champion of social legislation, but he oversold it and fell victim to his own pride. The escalation he pursued in Vietnam was driven by his absolute obsession not to be tagged as the guy who "lost" Vietnam. It is, in Patterson's view, wholly unproductive to engage in the Monday morning quarterback exercise. This was the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time and with the wrong enemy -- as LBJ was to learn. Patterson's critique of Nixon in Vietnam is also insightful. Had Nixon been willing to compromise in 69 he might have gotten instead what he ended up getting in 73. In the end, the economy's slump in the 70s, in combination with the double psychic shocks of Vietnam and Watergate, destroyed the confidence many Americans had in their government and put an end to the "grand expectations" of an era. Alan Brinkley, in reviewing another of Pattern's books (America's Struggle Against Poverty, 1900-1980) for Reviews in American History, comments on how the welfare state is so late and so light a tax burden in comparison to other western countries but that it still evokes a great deal of anger. In a scant 200 pages, Patterson explains the history of attitudes toward the poor starting with Progressivism, working through the New Deal and bringing the discussion through the War on Poverty and into the present world of "welfare reform." Patterson demonstrates that conservative inhibitions have rendered the American welfare state too small to be effective. In a country where middle class critics of the undeserving poor still dismiss the poor as "loafers" and "bums," conservative attitudes toward the poor have something of a 19th century ring to them. Patterson presents a "vision of a rich and powerful nation creating a modern welfare state almost in spite of itself, of a society stumbling into a commitment it neither understood nor desired."

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nathan

    Like the rest of the series this book covers America from various directions. It looks at the top from the various administrations of Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon. It explores things from the point of view of civil rights leaders such as Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Medgar Evers. The book even takes a look at some of the more extreme activists such as Malcolm X, who was for most of his career a black na Like the rest of the series this book covers America from various directions. It looks at the top from the various administrations of Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon. It explores things from the point of view of civil rights leaders such as Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Medgar Evers. The book even takes a look at some of the more extreme activists such as Malcolm X, who was for most of his career a black nationalists and not a believer in equality. The book examines at the sixties counterculture and the famous concert at Woodstock. It also covers the average Americans who were just trying to get along with their lives and who really enjoyed the show 'All in the Family.' "No performer aroused more alarm than Elvis Presley. Elvis, twenty years old in 1955, was the son of poor Mississippi farm folk who had moved into public housing in Memphis when he was fourteen. HE pomaded his hair and idolized Brando and Dean, whose Rebel Without a Cause he saw at least of dozen times and whose lines he could recite from memory. Presley learned to sing and play guitar while performing with local groups, often with people from his Assembly of God congregation. In 1954, he recorded 'That's All Right' and a few other songs, mainly in the blues and country traditions, thereby exciting Sam Phillips, a local loved black music and had recorded such musicians as B.B. King earlier in the 1950s. But the color line barred them from fame. 'If I could find a white man with a Negro sound,' Phillips is reputed to have said, 'I could make a billion dollars.'" (p.372) "The civil rights act was nonetheless a significant piece of legislation, far and away the most important in the history of American race relations. Quickly upheld by the Supreme Court, it was enforced with vigor by the State, for there were many thousands of hospitals, school districts, and colleges and universities affected by provisions of the law. Although many southern leaders resisted, most aspects of enforcement proved effective in time, and the seemingly impregnable barriers of Jim Crow finally begin to fall. Black people at last could begin to enjoy equal access to thousands of places that had excluded them in the past. Few laws have such dramatic and heart-warming effects."(p.546) There are some parts of the book I am very critical of. The book lacks a type of poetic feel that was present in previous volumes such as Gordon Wood's Empire of Liberty and David Kennedy's Freedom From Fear. Also often this book strongly leans to the negative. I am not saying one should not be critical when need be, for example there are several sections in David Walker Howe's What Hath Good Wrote that are very critical at times but nevertheless has a strong sense of wonder. This book very much lacks that at times. The moon landing is barely covered. For thousands of years humans had look at the moon and often worshiped it, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin went out and walked on it, and Patterson strongest stance on the matter is: it did not give us as much scientific information than we would have liked. While criticizing President Kennedy's foreign policy--again, nothing wrong with criticizing, especially the Bay of the Pigs disaster--he reduces the entire Peace Corps to just a single sentence. He also feels at times he needs to say something critical every time he says something positive. When discussing Cuban Missile Crisis he feels he needs to balance the positive view of Kennedy's handling of the event view with a more critical one, despite the fact that the critical view's argument is extremely weak. In some ways Patterson's seems to be so caught up in the era's disappointments to appreciative its wonder. I still highly recommend this book it is very insightful look into to how America was and the American people themselves at the end of World War II to how disappointed they were after the disastrous Vietnam War and the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union chilled the air for the entire era as the nation that though it could to anything had to learn its limits. America in this era was a nation of high hopes and great disappointments. *If the reader was given a hundred dollars every time the words 'grand expectations' came up the reader would probably finish with a few thousand dollars.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Richard Greene

    Bought this one as part of my read through the Oxford History of the United States. It is the first book in the series that scared me because of the possibility of recency bias - that the events were too close to now for an author to write about. Perhaps it was even a bigger concern because the book was written in the 1990s - about 25 years after the end of its subject matter. I was surprised though. Turned out to be a fairly balanced read, particularly on matters liberal and conservative, Democ Bought this one as part of my read through the Oxford History of the United States. It is the first book in the series that scared me because of the possibility of recency bias - that the events were too close to now for an author to write about. Perhaps it was even a bigger concern because the book was written in the 1990s - about 25 years after the end of its subject matter. I was surprised though. Turned out to be a fairly balanced read, particularly on matters liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican. Thoughts: *For all its balance, its heavily secondary sourced, particularly on matters involving Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. Suppose the obvious answer is that there were a lot of classified and inaccessible documents involving the Kennedy assassination, Vietnam and Watergate at the time of research and writing. *Like its predecessor on the Oxford timeline, Freedom from Fear, Grand Expectations centers on Presidential activity, particularly responses to foreign and domestic crises. If the stories of average people are told, it is through their involvement in national crises in race and gender relations, economics, and dissatisfaction with wars. *Grand Expectations is not just a title for this book. Patterson repeatedly beats the theme home: how Americans’ expectations drove their personal lifestyle decisions and reactions to political and economic problems. In the end, while the prospects of Americans tend to improve financially through the 30-year time period discussed, the outsized expectations Americans had following World War II, left many disappointed by the mid-1970s. *Really enjoyed the discussion of race and the radicalization of the Civil Rights movement. Came away thinking that the Women’s rights movement did not get enough treatment. Really quick discussions of Griswold and Roe, though I did like reading about the protests at the Miss America pageant. *On that note...1968...good grief. Makes 2020 seem tame by comparison. *It’s almost two books. I forget that the beginning is mostly about Truman, Eisenhower, McCarthy and Korea. On a personal note, seems that Patterson agrees that Eisenhower didn’t do much to stop McCarthy’s Red Scare antics - something I concluded from reading another book on the subject. Not to say that Eisenhower liked McCarthy personally. *Came away from the book skeptical of the ability of federal government to impose meaningful social change, at least immediately. Resistance of both Northern and Southern populations to affirmative action and desegregation destroyed the Democratic coalition that existed under Roosevelt. At the same time, the Warren Court and the Congress that enacted both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 set in place the social norms and expectations that existed long after. *Same in the economic realm. To some extent, all politicians mentioned, save maybe Eisenhower, are children of FDR. They believed in the ability of federal government to stimulate and maintain the economy through government spending. It appears from reading Patterson, that spending alone can create serious drawbacks - such as the early-1970s’ inflation that resulted from years of military spending. *Could go on and on. But came away impressed with all the Presidents mentioned for one reason or another. Truman for standing up to McArthur and filling FDR’s huge shoes; Eisenhower for his intervention at Little Rock and handling of the Korean War; Kennedy as an inspiration to many, Johnson for actually accomplishing the social initiatives that Kennedy seems to be credited with; and Nixon for balancing being the last of a socially moderate Republican order with a slick foreign policy that capitalized on the divide between Russia and China and helped bring an end to Vietnam. *Scandal and ineptitude seemed to compromise the positive achievements of the Presidents in this time and undermine public confidence in government, but I believe at some point or another all these names mentioned gave an honest effort to solve difficult problems - foreign and domestic.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    " Thieu, overwhelmed by a North Vietnamese military offensive, was forced to resign on April 21, 1975. As His loyalists scrambled desperately to climb aboard U.S. helicopters, Hanoi ran up its flag in Saigon on May 1 and renamed the capital Ho Chi Minh City. South Vietnam was a state no more. American leaders had underestimated the will to fight of the North, overestimated the staying power of the South, and misjudged the endurance of the American people. There are events in the world that not e " Thieu, overwhelmed by a North Vietnamese military offensive, was forced to resign on April 21, 1975. As His loyalists scrambled desperately to climb aboard U.S. helicopters, Hanoi ran up its flag in Saigon on May 1 and renamed the capital Ho Chi Minh City. South Vietnam was a state no more. American leaders had underestimated the will to fight of the North, overestimated the staying power of the South, and misjudged the endurance of the American people. There are events in the world that not even the greatest military powers can control." pg 767 (may be a lesson here) Volume 10 of the Oxford History of the United States covering 1945-1974. Very interesting volume for topics covered. The wins and losses of Truman coming out of World War II, thrust into the Presidency with little experience, using the A-Bomb, feeling his way through a very complicated time, on into the solid years of Eisenhower, all the cold war issues at hand, the work up of various race and human rights issues, Kennedy Presidency & assassination, LBJ and the Great Society (or disaster), voting rights for blacks, MLK & race riots, Vietnam snafu and ending with Tricky Dick Nixon, a man who could of been a contender as the greatest politician of the 20th century but his ego destroyed him. What's not to like here, I'am politically libertarian and I found that the author was pretty even handed on most issues, pointing to failures on both sides, demystifying issues, and at times showing the differing opinions of courses of action and why they were wrong or right. Very helpful in understanding the times. READ HISTORY

  19. 4 out of 5

    David

    An interesting time period. It's fascinating to see the origins of some vexing problems in the west, particularly in the United States, and how they continue to haunt us. Certainly there were many triumphs, but note this was a period where we build a lot of dams, and highways, and other infrastructure, which is now crumbling, and we see where we failed to take care of the environment. We also see the beginning of the Southern Strategy, where the Dems and Republicans often traded members, and the An interesting time period. It's fascinating to see the origins of some vexing problems in the west, particularly in the United States, and how they continue to haunt us. Certainly there were many triumphs, but note this was a period where we build a lot of dams, and highways, and other infrastructure, which is now crumbling, and we see where we failed to take care of the environment. We also see the beginning of the Southern Strategy, where the Dems and Republicans often traded members, and the net was much of the same obstruction, particularly regarding civil rights. We see too the dramatic societal changes, and many of the Tea Party today see this as these minority groups "cutting in line" with their demands for their rights. I think of how much of our current language is devoted to questions of rights, and how that differs from the not too ancient past. You also see the dilemmas these Presidents faces, as they didn't want to be the one to "lose Korea," or "lose Vietnam" to the communists, and how they failed to really understand the nationalism which Wilson championed at Versailles for Europeans, and that very nationalism the OSS used to engage locals in fights against the Japanese, and was now coming home to roost, so to speak. It's easy to read through this, with hindsight, and bemoan choices, but sometimes, hard to, given knowledge at the time, to have made different choices.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bryan

    A thoughtful and interesting exploration of a period of history I was a little fuzzy on. I especially like how the author would interpret the history and give informed opinions about policies and decisions parties would make. It makes for good copy as I gained a better understanding about policies that are in place today. It's a good contrast to books by H. W. Brands for example, who presents facts and policies with the criticism of them at the time, without the consensus of their impact by hist A thoughtful and interesting exploration of a period of history I was a little fuzzy on. I especially like how the author would interpret the history and give informed opinions about policies and decisions parties would make. It makes for good copy as I gained a better understanding about policies that are in place today. It's a good contrast to books by H. W. Brands for example, who presents facts and policies with the criticism of them at the time, without the consensus of their impact by historians. The author is consistent in giving full blooded assessments of the strengths and weaknesses of presidential administrations during the period. I felt like he was a little hard on Truman, who I've read alot about and deeply respect. I haven't read enough about the other presidents to know whether the author's opinions are fair or not. My favorite parts of the book are the presidential assessments including domestic and foreign policy, the civil rights movement, and the discussion of the Vietnam War. My least favorite parts of the book were the mounds of statistics the author throws at you about the culture at large. It's just so much information in so little space that it overwhelms you. The statistical cultural analysis portions of the book forced me to give it four stars instead of five, but overall, I really enjoyed the book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mike Hohrath

    Another installment in the Oxford History of the United States. I listened to the Audiobook version (shout out to Amazon for publishing this series as audiobooks). It took me some time to get through this one, over 30 hours of content. The author follows the politics of post WW2 through the end of the Watergate. This was an absolutely wild and turbulent time for the U.S. of A. After WW2, Americans had, well, grand expectations for how things would go down in their new position of global super pow Another installment in the Oxford History of the United States. I listened to the Audiobook version (shout out to Amazon for publishing this series as audiobooks). It took me some time to get through this one, over 30 hours of content. The author follows the politics of post WW2 through the end of the Watergate. This was an absolutely wild and turbulent time for the U.S. of A. After WW2, Americans had, well, grand expectations for how things would go down in their new position of global super power. These grand expectations were not always met, whether it was internationally with the Korean & Vietnam war plus the whole cold war, or domestically with the counter culture and anti-war movement of the 60's, and the civil rights movement happening simultaneously. They don't call them the turbulent 60's for nothing. It doesn't get any better when Nixon takes over! This is a accurate and detailed historical description of the period. Some things are glossed over, like the assassination of Kennedy and MLK Jr., but it is a good unbias account of the times. I don't think I'll listen to many more historical books as audiotapes, it an be challenging to absorb these tombs. That being said, others lend themselves especially well to the format, like Team of Rivals by Doris Kearnes Goodwin.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Perron

    My march through the ages has me now arriving at James T. Patterson's Grand Expectations, covering an era where my grandparents were building their families and my parents were kids. Since this book is about the recent past it is far more tangible than anything I have read so far. It begins in the world where America--with her allies--had just one World War II. Everything seemed so perfect for America was all-powerful, the world's most free nation that had just freed the world, the reforms of th My march through the ages has me now arriving at James T. Patterson's Grand Expectations, covering an era where my grandparents were building their families and my parents were kids. Since this book is about the recent past it is far more tangible than anything I have read so far. It begins in the world where America--with her allies--had just one World War II. Everything seemed so perfect for America was all-powerful, the world's most free nation that had just freed the world, the reforms of the New Deal will protected us from another Great Depression, and science would soon cure everything. Very soon however the American people were about to learn that they were far from invincible, several members of their nation's minority populations were not free, and the nation had some tough times ahead. This was not entirely a bad thing for although grand expectations* had led to some great disappointments those disappointments led to people great and small to take actions to make things better. At the beginning of this book half the nation is still legally segregated and the opportunities for minorities and women were extremely limited, at the end legal segregation was dead and things in America had changed greatly for those oppressed peoples. The battle for equality was far from over but things were very different. Like the rest of the series this book covers America from various directions. It looks at the top from the various administrations of Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon. It explores things from the point of view of civil rights leaders such as Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Medgar Evers. The book even takes a look at some of the more extreme activists such as Malcolm X, who was for most of his career a black nationalists and not a believer in equality. The book examines at the sixties counterculture and the famous concert at Woodstock. It also covers the average Americans who were just trying to get along with their lives and who really enjoyed the show 'All in the Family.' "No performer aroused more alarm than Elvis Presley. Elvis, twenty years old in 1955, was the son of poor Mississippi farm folk who had moved into public housing in Memphis when he was fourteen. HE pomaded his hair and idolized Brando and Dean, whose Rebel Without a Cause he saw at least of dozen times and whose lines he could recite from memory. Presley learned to sing and play guitar while performing with local groups, often with people from his Assembly of God congregation. In 1954, he recorded 'That's All Right' and a few other songs, mainly in the blues and country traditions, thereby exciting Sam Phillips, a local loved black music and had recorded such musicians as B.B. King earlier in the 1950s. But the color line barred them from fame. 'If I could find a white man with a Negro sound,' Phillips is reputed to have said, 'I could make a billion dollars.'" (p.372) "The civil rights act was nonetheless a significant piece of legislation, far and away the most important in the history of American race relations. Quickly upheld by the Supreme Court, it was enforced with vigor by the State, for there were many thousands of hospitals, school districts, and colleges and universities affected by provisions of the law. Although many southern leaders resisted, most aspects of enforcement proved effective in time, and the seemingly impregnable barriers of Jim Crow finally begin to fall. Black people at last could begin to enjoy equal access to thousands of places that had excluded them in the past. Few laws have such dramatic and heart-warming effects."(p.546) There are some parts of the book I am very critical of. The book lacks a type of poetic feel that was present in previous volumes such as Gordon Wood's Empire of Liberty and David Kennedy's Freedom From Fear. Also often this book strongly leans to the negative. I am not saying one should not be critical when need be, for example there are several sections in David Walker Howe's What Hath Good Wrote that are very critical at times but nevertheless has a strong sense of wonder. This book very much lacks that at times. The moon landing is barely covered. For thousands of years humans had look at the moon and often worshiped it, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin went out and walked on it, and Patterson strongest stance on the matter is: it did not give us as much scientific information than we would have liked. While criticizing President Kennedy's foreign policy--again, nothing wrong with criticizing, especially the Bay of the Pigs disaster--he reduces the entire Peace Corps to just a single sentence. He also feels at times he needs to say something critical every time he says something positive. When discussing Cuban Missile Crisis he feels he needs to balance the positive view of Kennedy's handling of the event view with a more critical one, despite the fact that the critical view's argument is extremely weak. In some ways Patterson's seems to be so caught up in the era's disappointments to appreciative its wonder. I still highly recommend this book it is very insightful look into to how America was and the American people themselves at the end of World War II to how disappointed they were after the disastrous Vietnam War and the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union chilled the air for the entire era as the nation that though it could to anything had to learn its limits. America in this era was a nation of high hopes and great disappointments. *If the reader was given a hundred dollars every time the words 'grand expectations' came up the reader would probably finish with a few thousand dollars.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mr. Monahan

    Patterson won the Bancroft Award for this tour de-force, so I imagine that a review is all but necessary. None-the-less, what makes this book so splendid is Patterson's intricate development of major themes in post-war American history, namely race, consumerism and cultural/political uniformity in the Cold War. The footnotes alone are worth pouring over, and it is quite significant that Patterson did not format in endnotes or have them removed. Patterson appropriately nods to the multitude of hi Patterson won the Bancroft Award for this tour de-force, so I imagine that a review is all but necessary. None-the-less, what makes this book so splendid is Patterson's intricate development of major themes in post-war American history, namely race, consumerism and cultural/political uniformity in the Cold War. The footnotes alone are worth pouring over, and it is quite significant that Patterson did not format in endnotes or have them removed. Patterson appropriately nods to the multitude of historians whose detailed work he has meticulously woven into a single, coherent narrative that illuminates post-war America as a time of building social and political tension. This is probably the best period survey I have ever read, and I've read many!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Anson Cassel Mills

    Grand Expectations is a fine introduction to the era of my own childhood and coming of age. I gained much from the retrospection that I could not have learned by contemporaneously reading the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin and watching NBC Nightly News with Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. Unfortunately, this hefty volume will inevitably suffer comparison with others in the Oxford History of the United States series to which Robert Middlekauff, James McPherson, and Daniel Walker Howe have made su Grand Expectations is a fine introduction to the era of my own childhood and coming of age. I gained much from the retrospection that I could not have learned by contemporaneously reading the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin and watching NBC Nightly News with Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. Unfortunately, this hefty volume will inevitably suffer comparison with others in the Oxford History of the United States series to which Robert Middlekauff, James McPherson, and Daniel Walker Howe have made such outstanding contributions. Patterson’s prose is workmanlike but doesn’t sing, and 25 years after publication, it seems dated in a way that Middlekauff, McPherson, and Howe do not.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nick Harriss

    Another excellent volume in the Oxford History of America series, taking in the Truman to Nixon years. It has just the right balance of detail and brevity; very much recommended for anybody interested in modern American history.

  26. 5 out of 5

    sean

    The writing is little wooden at times (terse maybe, ironically). Really valuable resource for a contextualized history of the postwar period. Pulled together a bunch of dispirit strands in this old duder's head.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Clough

    Everything I've come to expect from the Oxford History of the United States.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kumail Akbar

    A decently paced single volume from an era of american history I know little about, so worked well as an introduction.

  29. 4 out of 5

    James

    Simply put, this book triggered my love of American history and set into motion me devoting my life to studying American history.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    The Oxford History Series is excellent and Paterson's books are particularly good narratives

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