A History of the United States, 2nd Edition
Dr. Gary W. Gallagher is the John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War at the University of Virginia. He graduated from Adams State College of Colorado and earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in History from The University of Texas at Austin. Prior to teaching at UVA, he was Professor of History at The Pennsylvania State University. Professor Gallagher is one of the leading historians of the Civil War. His books include The Confederate War, Lee and His Generals in War and Memory, and Stephen Dodson Ramseur: Lee's Gallant General. He has coauthored and edited several works on individual battles and campaigns and has published over 100 articles in scholarly journals and popular historical magazines. Professor Gallagher has received many awards for his research and writing, including the Laney Prize for the best book on the Civil War, the William Woods Hassler Award for contributions to Civil War studies, the Lincoln Prize, and the Fletcher Pratt Award for the best nonfiction book on the Civil War. Professor Gallagher was founder and first president of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites and has served on the Board of Directors of the Civil War Trust.
Dr. Patrick N. Allitt is Cahoon Family Professor of American History at Emory University, where he has taught since 1988. The holder of a doctorate in history from the University of California, Berkeley, Professor Allitt-an Oxford University graduate-has also taught American religious history at Harvard Divinity School, where he was a Henry Luce Postdoctoral Fellow. He was the Director of Emory College's Center for Teaching and Curriculum from 2004 to 2009, where he looked for ways to improve teaching. In this critical administrative position, he led workshops on a wide variety of teaching-related problems, visited dozens of other professors' classes, and provided one-on-one consultation to teachers to help them overcome particular pedagogical problems. Professor Allitt was honored with Emory's Excellence in Teaching Award and in 2000 was appointed to the N.E.H./Arthur Blank Professorship of Teaching in the Humanities. A widely published and award-winning author, Professor Allitt has written several books, including The Conservatives: Ideas and Personalities throughout American History; Catholic Intellectuals and Conservative Politics in America, 1950-1985; Catholic Converts: British and American Intellectuals Turn to Rome; and Religion in America since 1945: A History. He is also author of I'm the Teacher, You're the Student: A Semester in the University Classroom, a memoir about one semester in his life as a university professor. In addition, he is the editor of Major Problems in American Religious History. He has written numerous articles and reviews for academic and popular journals, including The New York Times Book Review.
Dr. Allen C. Guelzo is the Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era and Director of Civil War Era Studies at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in History from the University of Pennsylvania. Among garnering other honors, he has received the Medal of Honor from the Daughters of the American Revolution. He is a member of the National Council on the Humanities. Professor Guelzo is the author of numerous books on American intellectual history, Abraham Lincoln, and the Civil War era. His publication awards include the Lincoln Prize as well as the Abraham Lincoln Institute Prize for two of his books-Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President and Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America–making him the first double Lincoln laureate in the history of both prizes. His critically acclaimed book, Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2008. Professor Guelzo has written for The American Historical Review, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, and he has been featured on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday, C-SPAN's Booknotes, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
01: Living Bravely
Columbus's discovery of a New World allowed Europeans to, first, exploit natural and human resources, and later, to write new social, economic, and political scripts for their lives in a place where European ideas of society no longer applied.
02: Spain, France, and the Netherlands
The Spanish tapped sources of wealth in the Americas, displaying the most wanton cruelty in obtaining it. By 1600 they had evolved from an extraction society to a settler society. The French attempted extraction incursions and to settle in North America but did not succeed as the Spanish had in the South.
03: Gentlemen in the Wilderness
The English joined the great game of extraction and settlement last of all the major European nations. By 1680 settlements around the Chesapeake Bay achieved success with tobacco and the forced recruitment of a workforce of African slaves. Virginia worked its way through what became a typical English pattern: from company colony, to unstable free-for-all, to stable aristocracy.
04: Radicals in the Wilderness
If the southern English colonies were motivated by economic self-interest-be it piracy, tobacco, or slaves-the northern settlements were motivated by ideas. In New England's case, the ideas were religious. The "godly commonwealth" of the first Puritans was succeeded by the same slow tendency toward aristocracy, based on transatlantic commerce rather than commodities, that characterized V...
05: Traders in the Wilderness
The broad stretch of coastal territory between the Chesapeake and Long Island had been settled by the Swedes along the Delaware Bay and the Dutch along the Hudson River. Dutch settlements (renamed New York) developed into a major commercial center. Quaker William Penn's Pennsylvania emerged, by the 1750s, with a commercial aristocracy similar to that of New England, centered around its principal c...
06: An Economy of Slaves
The transition of these settlements to stable commercial success would not have been possible without a source of cheap labor. America's immensity of land and lack of labor to develop it required forced migration of laborers: convicts, indentured servants, beggars. But a less expensive and more permanent source of labor was the 11 million Africans who were torn from their homes to be slaves.
07: Printers, Painters, and Preachers
Americans developed cultural forms in both music and art that were uniquely American. The most important cultural transition, part of the European Enlightenment, was from a religious to a scientific and secular understanding of the world. Three illustrative figures of this transition are Cotton Mather, Benjamin Franklin, and Jonathan Edwards.
08: The Great Awakening
The stresses of Colonial life-natural, social, economic, religious, and political- produced unusual social eruptions that were aimed at regaining some sense of control. The Great Awakening, a revival of radical Protestant religion across New England, helped people recover a sense of spiritual significance and moral direction; it also touched off violent religious controversy.
09: The Great War for Empire
By the mid-1700s, Britain and France were the two rivals for dominance of America. The war for empire, the French and Indian War, broke out in 1754, and at first went badly for England-but the British Empire had greater resources to draw on. The Treaty of Paris in 1763 forced the French to withdraw entirely from North America.
10: The Rejection of Empire
The Great War for Empire beggared the British economy. In 1765 Parliament moved to levy direct taxes on the colonies and to regulate colonial trade so that it profited Britain. The legislatures of the North American colonies protested. Americans insisted on "no taxation without representation." More protests led to outright conflict, the suspension of colonial governments by Parliament, ...
11: The American Revolution - Politics and People
Parliament's responses to American protests increasingly alienated Americans. By the spring of 1776, the determination of the British and the agitation of pro-independence thinkers wore down resistance to independence in the colonies. In the second Continental Congress of July 1776, a resolution declaring independence was adopted by the Congress and framed by a Declaration of Independence composed...
12: The American Revolution - Howe's War
From a military viewpoint, the Revolution started well and spiraled downward. The Continental Army, under the command of George Washington, faced humiliating defeats, abandoning all of New York and New Jersey to the British. Lost more by British incompetence than won by American planning, victory at Saratoga in the summer of 1777 salvaged American hopes.
13: The American Revolution - Washington's War
The Saratoga victory and the diplomacy of Benjamin Franklin in Paris persuaded France ally itself with the United States. The money, credit, weapons, and French naval and military resources forced the British to shift the focus of their war. Field forces fell under a combined land-and-sea campaign conducted by Washington and the French at Yorktown, where the British surrendered. The Treaty of Pari...
14: Creating the Constitution
The Revolution was not even over before the ramshackle nature of the Articles of Confederation began to show at the seams. A convention assembled in Philadelphia in 1787 to construct a constitution, which proposed a single executive president, a bicameral Congress, and a judiciary. The Constitution was ratified by the states, and George Washington was inaugurated as the first president in New York...
15: Hamilton's Republic
For Alexander Hamilton, the first secretary of the treasury, the republic depended on keeping the jealous interests of the individual states at bay, and on developing the republic's systems of finance, manufacturing, and commerce. Opposing him were Thomas Jefferson in the cabinet and the southern agricultural interests in Congress, both of whom believed that the future of America lay in independen...
16: Republicans and Federalists
The surprise development in the new republic's political life was the formation of political parties. The threat this posed to the Founders was that parties might thrive on sanctioning and perpetuating disagreements and disunion. James Madison became the organizer of the Democratic-Republicans, and Hamilton recruited his Congressional supporters into the Federalist Party. The Federalists only bare...
17: Adams and Liberty
Few people liked John Adams, so it was fortunate that the first major challenge of his administration involved a foreign policy problem, where few had more expertise than he. But Adams squandered all the political capital he accumulated. By persuading the Federalists to dump Adams before the election of 1800, Hamilton succeeded in dividing his party and guaranteeing that Thomas Jefferson and the D...
18: The Jeffersonian Reaction
Thomas Jefferson proved incapable of creating a practical set of alternatives to Hamilton's hard-headed fiscal policies, particularly in defense and in foreign trade. He was also surprised by the activism of the federal judiciary, which under Chief Justice John Marshall, began to operate as a serious restraint on the scope of Jefferson's actions.
19: Territory and Treason
With renewed war in Europe on the horizon, Napoleon needed cash more than he needed Louisiana. In 1803, he offered to sell the entire Louisiana province-830,000 square miles-for $15 million. Jefferson asked Congress to finance a secret scouting party under Lewis and Clark. Vice President Aaron Burr, who attempted to set up his own independent republic, was thwarted and saved from a treason indictm...
20: The Agrarian Republic
Jefferson was committed to keeping the American Republic an agrarian society, a culture of independence, nonmarket agriculture, and community. No regard was paid to the claims of the North American Indians. As Americans poured West in search of cheap land, disheartened Indians either accommodated, as with the Seneca and Cherokees, or resisted, as in the revolt of Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh.
21: The Disastrous War of 1812
In 1812, Madison sent a request to Congress for a declaration of war. The War of 1812 was a debacle. In October 1814, the Massachusetts legislature passed a peace resolution and threatened secession from the Union. Only the signing of the Treaty of Ghent at the end of 1814 ended talk of a New England separatist movement.
22: The "American System"
The War of 1812 collapsed the U.S. Treasury, bankrupted hundreds of businesses, and soaked up the tiny hoard of American financial capital by government borrowing. Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun became the principal spokesmen for rebuilding the infrastructure of the American economy after 15 years of Jeffersonianism.
23: A Nation Announcing Itself
By the 1820s, immigrants flowed through America's seaports from Europe; and with the clearance of Indian resistance, the Northwest Territory was opened by massive government land sales. Many emigrants chose to stay in the cities they first entered, and their numbers soon swelled the size of the American urban population.
24: National Republican Follies
The year 1819 blew up in the faces of the bankers, brokers, National Republicans, and everyone else who had leveraged themselves to the market system. It was the year of the Great Panic. The United States had to learn that committing itself to the world market system exacted a price in the form of the unpredictable cycle of boom and bust. Ultimately, the Supreme Court sat squarely in the path of a...
25: The Second Great Awakening
Three factors played a role in creating a Christian America: the resiliency of revival, the absorption of virtue, and the substitution of millennialism.
26: Dark Satanic Mills
The Industrial Revolution involved the invention or reinvention of machines, power, labor, and capital. But industrial growth could not go on forever without serious social consequences, manifested in the first labor strikes, union organizations, and workingmen's political parties in the 1830s.
27: The Military Chieftain
By 1824 Jefferson's Republican Party was, in fact, becoming two parties, the National Republicans and the Democratic-Republicans. John Quincy Adams, the heir apparent, was unmistakably a National Republican. The most unpredictable candidate was Andrew Jackson of Tennessee. Jackson swept the popular vote, but his 99 electoral votes did not constitute a majority of the 216 electoral votes cast.
28: The Politics of Distrust
Starting in 1824, Adams's presidency was one of the worst political disasters in the history of the American presidency. Jackson gathered his forces for 1828, and won by a staggering landslide in the first popular election of a president. It showed a shift in American political consciousness and the movement of the United States from its original shape as a republic toward the newer shape of popul...
29: The Monster Bank
The Second Bank of the United States regulated the economy by controlling the money supply and by promoting national investment. In 1831, Second Bank director Nicholas Biddle applied to Congress for rechartering; Jackson vetoed the bill. Clay believed that the veto would help elect him president in 1832 on an anti-Jackson backlash, but he was badly defeated by Jackson. Biddle now began shortening ...
30: Whigs and Democrats
The Whigs were committed to economic dynamism, social moralism, and national union. Jackson's Democrats thought of freedom as the privilege to be wealthy, and that liberty was a negative, not positive, idea. Blaming Martin van Buren for the depression, voters elected William Henry Harrison as the first Whig president. But Harrison died a month after inauguration; his vice president, John Tyler, wa...
31: American Romanticism
From the 1820s, Americans embraced the appeal of Romanticism. In literature, it was manifested in the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Transcendentalists, Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville; in religion, it was illustrated by the Mercersburg theology; and in politics, it was reflected in the rhetoric of Whigs and Democrats and the argument over passio...
32: The Age of Reform
The sense that the American Republic represented the vanguard of a new age of freedom spawned campaigns to advance American perfection and freedom. Their common message was one of optimism, but it carried the threat that a democracy would find itself incapable of achieving stability. The French observer Alexis de Tocqueville, in Democracy in America, gave a favorable reading to the American future...
33: Southern Society and the Defense of Slavery
Declining profitability before 1800 suggested that slavery would gradually die out, as it did in northern states where immigrant labor made slave labor unprofitable. But the success of cotton agriculture and the labor needed to sustain it resurrected slavery. Northern abolitionists gathered force in the 1830s; southern demands for protection and extradition of runaways led to mob violence and aggr...
34: Whose Manifest Destiny?
Americans swarmed into the Louisiana Purchase territories triggering three major conflicts: with the Plains Indian tribes, with Mexico over the province of Texas, and the third over the admission of slavery into the Louisiana Purchase.
35: The Mexican War
James K. Polk's election was the signal for the renewal of Jacksonian expansionism and the use of expansionism to serve the interests of slavery. Polk aggressively pushed American claims to territory along the southern border with Mexico and the Canadian border with Great Britain. The latter was resolved diplomatically; the former started war against Mexico. The United States gained all of what is...
36: The Great Compromise
The wrangling over whether to allow slavery in the territories gained from the Mexican Cession led to southern threats of disunion and was aggravated by the sudden death of President Taylor. Henry Clay took the floor of the Senate to shape his last Union-saving compromise, which looked as if it would permanently dampen the slavery agitation.
37: Sectional Tensions Escalate
This lecture surveys manifestations of sectional animosity, especially regarding slavery, and gives attention to the brief history of the American, or Know-Nothing, Party. The lecture also stresses the idea that, whatever the real divisions between them, Northerners and Southerners increasingly proved willing to believe the worst about the other.
38: Drifting Toward Disaster
This lecture continues with the story of sectional turbulence. It highlights the failure of national institutions to push compromise on slavery and its extension into the territories. The lecture also emphasizes the Dred Scott case of 1857, debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas, and the impact of John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859. These controversies helped set the stage ...
39: The Coming of War
This lecture discusses the impact of Lincoln's election. Deep South states seceded in response to the Republican victory, but only the crisis at Fort Sumter in April 1861 convinced the Upper South to secede. A range of opinion existed in most slaveholding states regarding secession. It describes the formation of the Confederate States of America.
40: The First Year of Fighting
This lecture stresses that either side could have won the war and offers a careful analysis of the strengths and weaknesses each brought to the conflict. There was early strategic planning on both sides; the lecture discusses some crucial battles of the first year's fighting. The conflict mushroomed from a limited military contest at the time of First Bull Run in July 1861 into a massive struggle ...
41: Shifting Tides of Battle
The year between the summer of 1862 and the summer of 1863 convinced Americans on both sides that the war would be long and bitter. This lecture traces some of the major military campaigns of this year, underscoring the enormous swings of morale behind the lines in the North and South as each side won victories and suffered defeats.
42: Diplomatic Clashes and Sustaining the War
This lecture shifts from the battlefield to the home front. We look at diplomacy and the blockade. The lecture examines the difficulty and cost of fielding and maintaining large armies. We discuss Union and Confederate conscription, the ways each side raised money, and the production and delivery of military supplies.
43: Behind the Lines - Politics and Economies
This lecture compares politics and economics in the United States and the Confederacy. Almost all military campaigning occurred in the Confederacy, dealing severe blows to industrial and agricultural production and material hardships to its population. The North proved able to produce guns and butter, and the Republican-dominated Congress passed legislation designed to make the nation a great indu...
44: African Americans in Wartime
The war brought seismic changes for African Americans. Slavery-under which more than 4 million black people lived and suffered when the war erupted-ended. This lecture examines the experiences of African Americans on both sides, addressing, among other topics, black soldiers in U.S. military forces, the experience of hundreds of thousands of black refugees in the South, the weakening of the bonds ...
45: The Union Drive to Victory
The outcome of the war remained uncertain as late as the summer of 1864. Successes turned the tide decisively in favor of the Union. This lecture examines the final year of military action, highlighting the roles of Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, and Grant and Robert E. Lee at Appomattox. The lecture also describes Lincoln's assassination and gives a reckoning of the war's cost.
46: Presidential Reconstruction
Debates in the North over how best to bring the Confederate states back into the Union began while the war still raged. This lecture examines the wartime context and continues through Johnson's early presidency. By the end of 1866, the stage was set for a final showdown between the president and Congress in the fight over Reconstruction in the South.
47: Congress Takes Command
Congress took control of Reconstruction policy in early 1867. Ulysses S. Grant, who supported Congress, won the presidency as the Republican candidate in 1868. This lecture examines the struggle between Johnson and Congress, analyzes Reconstruction legislation, describes the state governments set up under that legislation in former Confederate states, and assesses the meaning of the election of 18...
48: Reconstruction Ends
Reconstruction improved many aspects of black Southerners' lives, at least for a number of years, and left deep scars on a white South that labored diligently to project an image of Northern oppression. The lecture closes with an assessment of whether Reconstruction should be judged a success or a moment of lost opportunity for African Americans in the United States.
In the late 19th century, the scale of American industry increased dramatically. John D. Rockefeller in the oil industry and Andrew Carnegie in iron and steel built massive corporations and dominated entire sectors of the economy. With brilliant inventors, including Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, and a succession of improvements in manufacturing, the United States became one of the three...
50: Transcontinental Railroads
The first transcontinental railroad was finished in 1869. Builders had to overcome horrific obstacles; tunneling through the Sierra Nevada Mountains took three years. Completion cut travel time from the Mississippi to the West Coast from three months to about one week. The line was joined by other transcontinentals; a national network facilitated settlement in the plains and mountain states that h...
51: The Last Indian Wars
The coming of settlers with the railroads made continuation of the Indians' independent life impossible, in addition to the near extinction of the buffalo and gold rushes. Plains tribes were warrior societies that lived to fight and ought not to be romanticized. After the Battle at Little Bighorn in 1876, the U.S. Army intensified its campaign against them and broke all resistance within a year.
52: Farming the Great Plains
The Homestead Act encouraged farmers to acquire land at almost no cost, and those who could overcome the loneliness, prairie fires, insect infestations, extremes of climate, and incessant winds were able to build prosperous lives. By 1890 they were growing massive annual surpluses, driving down the cost of food throughout the Western world and eliminating the danger of famine in America once and f...
53: African Americans after Reconstruction
When Reconstruction ended in 1876, southern "Redeemers" took political control of the South, passing legislation enforcing racial segregation. There were periodic lynchings. The federal government's decision to withdraw from the area meant that the white elite ruled unchallenged for much of the next 80 years. Most African Americans lived by sharecropping, condemning many of them to a cyc...
54: Men and Women
Middle-class American men and women emphasized differences between the two sexes and believed that each had its proper sphere of activity. Doctors said rigorous education for women would lead to hysteria and that political rights would make them mannish, threatening differences embedded in nature itself. Early advocates of suffrage, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, argued that women, w...
55: Religion in Victorian America
Victorian religion in America was less doctrinal and more sentimental than its Puritan antecedents. Traveling revivalists and preachers tried to help the poor and reform grim urban conditions and worked to outlaw alcohol. America's principle of religious freedom and church-state separation allowed other religions to flourish and showed doubters the nation could accommodate religious pluralism.
56: The Populists
Southern cotton sharecroppers, black and white, and Midwestern farmers were falling into debt. They tried cooperative marketing schemes but decided to turn to politics to legislate for better conditions. The Populist Party enjoyed local and state-level successes in the early 1890s, but were unable to build a stable party structure nationally.
57: The New Immigration
Late 19th-century Europe was full of stories about America, and bad conditions for farmers prompted many of them to emigrate. Parents found that, with hard work, they, or their children, could climb to American prosperity and respectability. Fears of "race suicide" in the 1920s gave rise to an immigration restriction policy.
58: City Life
American cities grew rapidly. They were often badly planned and became overcrowded with ethnic and linguistic neighborhoods. Cities were severely polluted with smoke and ash; contaminated water supplies, poor sanitation, and large numbers of horses worsened public health conditions and shortened life expectancy. Reformers tried to Americanize urban immigrants and campaigned for city government ref...
59: Labor and Capital
Hoping to improve their wages, job security, and working conditions, many workers turned to trade unionism. The great railroad strike of 1877 showed that strikes could succeed if they enjoyed community support but would fail if business owners used their political influence and court injunctions against the unions. Bitter union-management confrontations punctuated the 1890s. Railroad leader Eugene...
60: Theodore Roosevelt and Progressivism
Progressive reformers in the early 1900s tried to increase honesty and efficiency in business and government, to forestall monopolies, and to Americanize immigrants. Theodore Roosevelt, the first president to embrace the Progressive outlook, established the principle of presidential initiative in progressive legislative programs. He created the National Forest Service and led a trust-busting campa...
61: Mass Production
Manufacturers began to mass-produce products they could sell cheaply and in large numbers through nationwide advertising campaigns. In Chicago slaughterhouses, animals on overhead conveyors were systematically killed and dismembered, which gave Henry Ford the idea for a moving line on which automobiles could be assembled. He perfected the line in 1914, reduced the price of cars, and raised his wor...
62: World War I - The Road to Intervention
When Europe went to war in 1914, America stayed aloof. But sympathy for Britain was strong among President Wilson and his cabinet. The German decision to declare unrestricted submarine warfare against American ships in the Atlantic led him to declare war against Germany. America's previously small army grew rapidly in 1917 and trained hard, taking the field in large numbers in 1918 under the leade...
63: World War I - Versailles and Wilson's Gambit
German military successes helped precipitate the Russian Revolution of 1917. President Wilson traveled to Versailles for the 1919 peace talks to discover that victorious English and French leaders wanted vindictive reparations. Hoping to rectify the treaty's worst features through the League of Nations, Wilson was thwarted by the Senate's refusal to join the League. The Russian Revolution prompted...
64: The 1920s
In the 1920s, Protestants' hopes for the Prohibition Amendment soon soured. Prohibition created ideal conditions for organized crime; the alcohol ban became unenforceable. The revival of the Ku Klux Klan targeted Catholics and Jews as much as African Americans. A brighter side: high levels of employment; rising real wages; improving city conditions; the rapid spread of cars, refrigerators, and rad...
65: The Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression
Minimal government regulation of the stock exchange and unsound financial practices created unrealistic expectations among speculators. The collapse of share prices on Wall Street in the fall of 1929 ruined many and destroyed the savings of thousands more. From 1929-1933 a downward spiral of economic shrinkage, bankruptcies, factory closings, and rapidly worsening unemployment occurred. Drought in...
66: The New Deal
President Franklin Roosevelt, elected in 1932, experimented with political reforms immediately after his inauguration. His efforts to prevent cutthroat competition among businesses, and his creation of federal agencies to oversee relief and regulatory tasks, marked a dramatic shift of power out of the states and into the federal government. Roosevelt, re-elected in 1936, tried to safeguard his pol...
67: World War II - The Road to Pearl Harbor
Hitler's rise to power in Germany caused growing alarm in America. His successful attacks on his European neighbors in 1939 and 1940 and his vicious anti-Jewish policies caused many Americans to seek intervention on behalf of Britain. Roosevelt committed America to full-scale war only after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. America's military forces, small and unprepared, expan...
68: World War II - The European Theater
Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin determined how to engage their forces over Europe and North Africa. A year of hard campaigning led to the defeat of Germany, a junction with Soviet forces in central Europe, and discovery of the Holocaust's full horror. America itself was transformed into a high-wage, high-employment economy, with women taking on jobs previously reserved for men.
69: World War II - The Pacific Theater
Aircraft carriers became the crucial weapon of the Pacific war. American seaborne forces seized a succession of Pacific islands from which aircraft could bomb the Japanese mainland. By mid-1945, Allied victory in the Pacific was assured. Japanese refusal to surrender and the prospect of a costly and difficult invasion of Japan prompted the new president, Harry Truman, to approve the use of the war...
70: The Cold War
World War II did not end with a general peace treaty. The principal victors, America and the Soviet Union, disagreed over the future of eastern Europe. A temporary dividing line drawn through Europe became permanent. Soviet possession of nuclear weapons by 1949 created a geopolitical stalemate. The proliferation of nuclear weapons to a point of mutual assured destruction caused anxiety and an inte...
71: The Korean War and McCarthyism
Espionage cases in the late 1940s heightened fears of Communism. The Truman administration began to investigate the loyalty of federal employees. Many businesses, including the Hollywood film industry, conducted anti-Communist purges. Anti-Communist fears allowed Senator Joseph McCarthy to exploit irrational public fears. Post-war Korea and Berlin remained potential flash-points.
72: The Affluent Society
World War II caused a dramatic redistribution of income throughout society. Consumer-goods manufacturers and advertisers took advantage of steady rises in available discretionary income. America sprawled in the 1950s and became the wealthiest society in the history of the world. The Soviet Union's surprise victory in the space race led to a new American dedication to education in science and techn...
73: The Civil Rights Movement
The Supreme Court's decisions in the Brown case (1954) and the Montgomery bus boycott (1955-1956) inaugurated the activist phase of the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King, Jr., and other movement leaders used the style and idiom of evangelical clergy. Disputes over busing and affirmative action clouded bitter political disagreements. The interracial civil rights coalition broke up in the fa...
74: The New Frontier and the Great Society
President John F. Kennedy brought charisma to the White House in 1961. His escalation of the Cold War, apparent in the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban missile crisis, and expansion of the American role in Vietnam, was offset by a new concern for legislating on behalf of the poor and minorities. After his assassination in November 1963 his successor, Lyndon Johnson, pursued antipoverty, antidiscrim...
75: The Rise of Mass Media
Thousands of newspapers in 20th-century America, with radio stations, television, and the world's strongest movie industry, informed citizens well about their surroundings and about political and social questions. The computer revolution added further sophistication to this process, while the Internet of the 1990s created a "global village." Media power transformed the nature of politics...
76: The Vietnam War
The French Empire in Vietnam ended in 1955. In support of the non-Communist southern half of the country resisting reunification, by 1968 half a million American soldiers were fighting there. Casualties and TV footage of troops persecuting villagers or accidentally bombing children with napalm turned public opinion against the war. President Johnson abandoned his re-election plans because of it. The last Americans withdrew only in 1973. The Vietnam syndrome constrained American military actions for decades.
77: The Women's Movement
In the late 1960s, as an outgrowth to the Civil Rights and antiwar movements, women's liberation movement came into being. The National Organization for Women campaigned successfully for the abolition of gender discrimination in employment. Attacks on sexism in advertising and media, and criticism of gender bias in society and law gave rise to radical feminism. Women campaigned in vain for the Equ...
78: Nixon and Watergate
In 1968 President Richard Nixon, accepting the largely bipartisan Cold War consensus, continued the American role in Vietnam. By the standards of his later Republican successors, Nixon was a center or even liberal Republican. Nixon won easily in 1972 against George McGovern, but was ruined by revelations over the next two years that he had known of a break-in of McGovern's campaign headquarters an...
The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, the year the Environmental Protection Agency was created. Endangered species, wild rivers, and scarce water resources all became issues of government concern, as did the cleanup of toxic chemical sites. Environmentalists in the 1980s and 1990s alerted the nation to further resource shortages and potential threats to Earth's welfare.
80: Religion in Twentieth-Century America
America is a far more religious society than other Western industrial nations-another example of its exceptionalism. It also tolerated an exotic array of sects and cults, from hippies to the followers of Jim Jones who committed mass suicide in 1978. Religious groups also played a role in the moral-political debates over civil rights, feminism, abortion, homosexuality, and nuclear weapons.
81: Carter and the Reagan Revolution
Jimmy Carter won the 1976 presidential race but was presented with an ugly combination of economic stagnation and inflation (stagflation), the Iranian revolution, and the Tehran hostage crisis. He lost to a right-wing Republican, Ronald Reagan, in 1980. Reagan escalated the Cold War by planning space-based weapons, and aimed to diminish the reach of the federal government. His masterful use of th...
82: The New World Order
When the Soviet Union went through a peaceful transition to democracy, the United States was left as the world's one great superpower, able to preside over the creation of numerous new nations with more or less democratic and America-inspired political systems. In the 1990s the absence of Communist repression permitted old ethnic and religious animosities in Eastern Europe to resurface. In spite o...
83: Clinton's America and the Millennium
Bill Clinton's eight-year administration was a period of economic growth, but his failure to create a national healthcare system underlined the difference between America and other Western nations that had created cradle-to-grave social welfare states. Continued turbulence in the Middle East made America a devil-nation to the Arab world. This judgment confronted America in the starkest possible wa...
The immense vitality and diversity of American life have been sustained by several recurrent themes. Compared to its high ideals, America always fell short. Compared to the other nations of the world, however, America was far more impressive for its successes than for its failings.