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The Americans : The democratic experience by…
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The Americans : The democratic experience (1973)

by Daniel J. Boorstin, Daniel J. Boorstin

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806317,264 (3.95)2
  1. 20
    The Discoverers: A History of Man's Search to Know His World and Himself by Daniel J. Boorstin (John_Vaughan)
  2. 11
    The Americans: The Colonial Experience by Daniel J. Boorstin (John_Vaughan)
    John_Vaughan: Daniel Boorstin is an eminently readable author and historian; his trilogy The Americans offers a full outline of Colonial America.
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Daniel J. Boorstin describes a post-Civil War America united not by ideological conviction or religious faith but by common participation in ordinary living: "A new civilization found new ways of holding men together--less and less by creed or belief, by tradition or by place, more and more by common effort and common experience, by the apparatus of daily life, by their ways of thinking about themselves." This is not a familiar litany of names, dates,... ( )
This review has been flagged by multiple users as abuse of the terms of service and is no longer displayed (show).
  Tutter | Feb 21, 2015 |
Read the entire trilogy. Cultural history at its best. ( )
1 vote ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
Daniel Boorstin is the most oft cited consensus historian of the post-war period. As critics observe, he is persistently oblivious to conflict and contest in American history. Worse than being reviled, he is ignored by the profession as irrelevant.

Main current of Boorstin's thought is that Americans are a "practical" people. Free from abstract doctrine or theological speculation, the Puritans built a "city on a hill." Celia Kenyon pointed to "the themes of practicality, of realistic adaptation to the circumstances of colonial life, of intelligent and effective amateurism" in his work. As others have pointed out, he was one of the first people to point out the importance of technological innovation throughout American history. In the woods of New England, people did need to be jacks of all trades to survive. This is, as Brooke Hindle and Steven Lubar were to point out later, a source of innovation in America's wooden age. Another problem with Boorstin's approach is the insistence on the irrelevance of ideology to the American experience. The Quakers were the only ideologues in his history. They, like the Civil Rights workers, went to prisons singing. The Quakers are as wrong-headed in Boorstin's views as those who protested for civil rights.

In a review entitled "American Social History: The Boorstin Experience," Kenneth L. Kusmer covers all three volumes and concludes that Boorstin is best when talking about times when conflict was less important than consensus. Unfortunately, there is no time in American History when conflict was less important than consensus. Kusmer points out that the American Revolution flows from his pen as a decidedly un-revolutionary event. On the Puritans he stresses the lack of rancorous contention. The Puritans had the right to get rid of dissenters (Williams and Hutchinson). Religion was the site of social stability not the realm of contested values. When turning his eye to the military history of America, Kusmer tells us that Boorstin is more valuable. He stresses the unschooled and "pragmatic" approach which American commanders took during the Revolution. Unrestrained by the weight of the "old world," they adopted guerilla tactics that enabled them to fight more effectively. (Yet what do we make of the Prussian drill master who trained Washington's troops?) Also points usefully to the American way of war as a defense of the home land, partially explaining the difficulty with LBJ faced in fighting the Vietnam war.

On the Civil War, he contrasts Northern practicality with Southern ideology. As Eric Foner has shown, Free Soil ideology was as much a motivating force in the North as white supremacy was in the South. He ignores blacks, indians and women as makers of history at all turns. His work is solidly "middle class," what one would call Whiggish, in the first two volumes and turns a bit pessimistic in the third. The rise of the New Left and anti-Vietnam protest disillusioned him it seems. In the third volume he was less celebratory. The imperative of technology seemed to be pushing us forward, making life more second hand ... the immediacy of experience was fading, and so too was the practical amateurism that forswears the ideological.
1 vote mdobe | Jul 23, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0394710118, Paperback)

Daniel J. Boorstin describes a post-Civil War America united not by ideological conviction or religious faith but by common participation in ordinary living: "A new civilization found new ways of holding men together--less and less by creed or belief, by tradition or by place, more and more by common effort and common experience, by the apparatus of daily life, by their ways of thinking about themselves." This is not a familiar litany of names, dates, and places, but an anecdotal account that rises far above impressionism and paints a compelling portrait of the United States as it climbed to new heights. Sheer reading pleasure for lovers of history, this fittingly ambitious conclusion to the Americans trilogy won the Pulitzer Prize when it was first published in 1973. --John J. Miller

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:44 -0400)

Explores the emergence of American culture, discussing how the national character developed through revolutions in economics, technology, and society.

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