Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974

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Oxford University Press, 1996 - History - 829 pages
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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 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 magisterial 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.
Grand Expectations is the newest volume in the prestigious Oxford History of the United States. The earlier releases were highly acclaimed, and one, Battle Cry of Freedom, was both a New York Times bestseller and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Patterson's volume takes its rightful place beside
these distinguished works. It is a brilliant summation of the years that created the America that we know today, a time of unmatched achievements and devastating tragedies

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User Review  - mdobe - LibraryThing

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 ... Read full review

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User Review  - NewsieQ - LibraryThing

Although I prefer reading history books that are focused on a particular person, event, or theme, once in awhile, it’s good to get an overview of an era. And there’s no better series for that than the ... Read full review


Editors Introduction
August 1945
1Veterans Ethnics Blacks Women
4Grand Expectations About the World
5Hardening of the Cold War 19451948
Trumans First Term
14A Center Holds More or Less 19571960
An Overview
16The New Frontier at Home
17JFK and the World
18Lyndon Johnson and American Liberalism
19A Great Society and the Rise of RightsConsciousness
20Escalation in Vietnam
21Rights Polarization and Backlash 19661967

7Red Scares Abroad and at Home
10World Affairs 19531956
11The Biggest Boom Yet
12Mass Consumer Culture
23Rancor and Richard Nixon
24Nixon Vietnam and the World 19691974
25End of an Era? Expectations amid Watergate and Recession
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About the author (1996)

About the Author:
James T. Patterson is Ford Foundation Professor of History at Brown University.

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