A History of the American People

I finished reading Paul Johnson’s 976 page epic, A History of the American People. Johnson is a prominent British historian who has authored such books as Modern Times, A History of Christianity, A History of the Jews, as well as the recently released Art: A New History, as well as many more.

A History of the American People is the first book I’ve read by Johnson, and I must say I was very impressed. Johnson doesn’t go into boring or meaningless detail, nor does he spend time trying to be Politically Correct. In this book, he explains what Colonial America was all about, as well as shows the Founding Fathers as real people, not “dead white men.” He exposes their faults, but also illustrates the undeniable fact that these men were some of the greatest visionaries in their time, or any other time for that matter. He articulates their ideas of individualism, as well as their views on the proper role of government.

Throughout the 1800s, he takes us on a ride through Jacksonian Democracy, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Wild West. His views of the 20th Century, however, are sure to be the most controversial. He shatters the myth of the New Deal, and is harshly critical of FDR. He takes it even a step further than most of FDR’s critics. While most of them criticize the New Deal, yet praise Roosevelt’s leadership on foreign policy, Johnson goes so far as to compare FDR to hapless British PM Neville Chamberlain, who ironically proclaimed “peace in our time,” following his treaty with Hitler in 1939.

Johnson is also very critical of Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, JFK, LBJ, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton (where his history ends in 1997). Among the presidents he seems to admire: Calvin Coolidge (whom he describes as being highly underrated – which I agree with), Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon (hear that, Dems?), and Ronald Reagan. He isn’t a “raging right-winger” however, as he does denounce Ann Coulter’s hero, Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

Johnson’s insight into American history is particularly amazing considering that he is British, and never learned much about American History as a youth. Johnson has certainly does his homework on this tome.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in history. It may take a while to read, but it is very worth your while.

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