Thursday, September 04, 2008

A Short History of the United States by Robert V. Remini

This wonderful little volume contains the rudimentary facts concerning the discovery, settlement, expansion, and development of the American nation and its organizations. Robert V. Remini surveys and paints a brilliant picture as he takes us back for a look at how the western hemisphere was populated.

We journey through the Native American and see how sophisticated their and truly advanced some of their cultures and governments were. We join in on the discovery of this new world by the Spanish, English, French and Dutch. The journey takes us through the causes of the American Revolution, the founding of the the country with the declaration of independence, articles of confederation and the constitution. We continue with the Louisiana Purchase, War of 1812 and the way it made people view themselves as Americans. The trip continues through the Jacksonian period, Mexican War and Manifest Destiny, the antebellum period, and the civil war and reconstruction.

I enjoyed the side bars along the way as the influence of the arts and literature were included each step of the way. It was nice to see which authors and their writings helped change history. We were there to experience the rise of big business and the emergence of the United States as a world power. We learned of the Spanish American and World War One. The descent into the Great Depression and World War Two, Korea, Viet-Nam, and The Persian Gulf Wars were viewed as well. We learned of the rise of conservatism. We confronted the eruption of terrorism here and abroad.

The book is well written in a narrative style. I was disappointed with the last chapter on the conservative revolution especially comments like “The Bush administration, just itching to start a war with Iraq, chose to believe ….” and “Frustrated and still determined to take action …” In my opinion the author moved from reporting and giving commentary on history, to injecting his personal beliefs and points of view on contemporary issues and events.

While I still think this is a wonderful little volume, the last chapter caused me to change my view on the book. I was viewing this as a book that would be great for a high school or college American history survey course. But, after reading the last chapter, I would not want it as a primary text because of the lack of accepted historical documentation on the coverage of the President George W. Bush and events in Iraq. The author stated opinion with personal bias (my opinion) rather than use methods and techniques of accepted historical research. He failed to identify and record his sources in this area. Other researchers or scholars are thus unable to verify or locate the information he used to base his conclusions. This chapter alone will exclude it from consideration in evangelical Christian schools and colleges.

I did a review of the galley proof for HarperCollinsPublishers. The book will be published in October 2008.