Restless Giant : The United States from Watergate to Bush vs. Gore, Paperback Book

Restless Giant : The United States from Watergate to Bush vs. Gore Paperback

Part of the Oxford History of the United States series

4 out of 5 (1 rating)


James Patterson's Bancroft Prize-winning Grand Expectations, the penultimate volume in the Oxford History of the United States, was hailed by The New York Times as "a spirited, sprawling narrative of American life" and by The Wall Street Journal as "a tour de force." Now, in the final chronological volume of this acclaimed series, Patterson again offers an authoritative and vibrant history of a turbulent period in American life.

Restless Giant provides a crisp, concise assessment of the twenty-seven years between the resignation of Richard Nixon and the election of George W.

Bush, in a sweeping narrative that seamlessly weaves together social, cultural, political, economic, and international developments.

We meet the era's many memorable figures-most notably, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton-and explore the "culture wars" where liberals and conservatives, including a resurgent Religious Right, appeared to cut the country in two. Indeed, Reagan helped to usher in a widespread conservative revolution, but even as the Right was ascendant politically, it did not succeed in reversing more liberal trends. Patterson describes how, when the Cold War finally ended, Americans faced bewildering new developments around the world and discovered-in Panama, Somalia, Bosnia, and Iraq-that it was far from easy to direct the outcome of global events.

In exploring a wide range of cultural, social, and economic concerns, Patterson shows how the persistence of racial tensions, high divorce rates, alarm over crime, and urban decay all led many writers to portray this era as one of decline.

But Restless Giant offers a more positive perspective, arguing that our often unmet expectations caused many of us to view the era negatively, when in fact we were in many ways better off than we thought.

By 2000, most Americans lived more comfortably than they had in the 1970s, and though bigotry and discrimination were far from extinct, a powerful rights consciousness insured that these were less pervasive in American life than at any time in the past. With insightful analyses and engaging prose, Restless Giant captures this period of American history in a way that no other book has, illuminating the road that the United States traveled from the dismal days of the mid-1970s through the hotly contested election of 2000.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 496 pages, 32 pp halftone plates
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: History of the Americas
  • ISBN: 9780195305227



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This is the last of the Oxford history of the U.S. --- chronologically, though not in order of publication -- and provides a helpful overview of the period from 1975 to 2000. It does not, however, provide the sweep or narrative strength of some of the other volumes in the series. In large part, that may the inevitable result of attempting an historical approach so recent a period. With so many of the key issues of the period still very much unresolved, and so many of its effects still unfolding, it may not be possible to form a compellingly coherent view of what was "really" going on. But this is still a very valuable book. It traces events on a presidency-by-presidency basis, while sticking with several underlying themes -- cultural confrontation at home, the collapse of communism abroad, and increasing political rancor across the board. It treats the very different presidencies of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton in an impressively even handed manner, exploring the strengths and failures of each man without evident bias. And it clarifies what too often seems the jumble of recent events. For example, the foreign policy effects of Vietnam are made clear (no troops at risk), as is the gradual move back to military activism. I think that it is too soon for a definitive history of this period to be written. In the meantime, "Restless Giant" serves very well.

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