America Past and Present
Divine, Breen, Fredrickson, Williams
©2002 Single Volume Edition (hardback) 0-321-07992-2
The sixth edition of America Past and Present is a major revision that strives to achieve the shared goal of the previous editions: to present a clear, relevant, and balanced history of the United States as an unfolding story of national development, from the days of the earliest inhabitants to the present. We emphasize the story because we strongly believe in the value of historical narrative in providing a vivid sense of the past. In each chapter, we seek to blend the excitement and drama of the American experience with insights about the social, economic, and cultural issues that underlie it.
Revisions for the Sixth Edition
In this edition, we have reviewed each chapter carefully to take account of recent scholarly work, to offer new perspectives, and to sharpen the analysis and the prose. In many cases, we have adopted the suggestions offered by those who used the previous editions in their classrooms.
Throughout this edition, as in previous editions, we pay particular attention to the roles that women and minority groups have played in the development of American society and the American nation. These people appear throughout the text, not as witnesses to the historical narrative, but as principal actors in its evolution. New and expanded material in this edition includes the following:
Approach and Themes
As the title suggests, our book is a blend of the traditional and the new. The strong narrative emphasis and chronological organization are traditional; the incorporation of the many fresh insights that historians have gained from social sciences in the past quarter century is new. We have used significant incidents and episodes to reflect the dilemmas, the choices, and the decisions made by the people as well as by their leaders. After discussion of the colonial period, most of the chapters examine shorter time periods, usually about a decade, permitting us to view these major political and public events as points of reference and orientation around which social themes are integrated. This approach gives unity and direction to the text.
In recounting the story of the American past, we see a nation in flux. The early Africans and Europeans developed complex agrarian folkways that blended Old World customs and New World experiences; as cultural identities evolved, the idea of political independence became more acceptable. People who had been subjects of the British crown created a system of government that challenged later Americans to work out the full implications of theories of social and economic equality.
The growing sectional rift between the North and South, revolving around divergent models of economic growth and conflicting social values, culminated in civil war. In the postCivil War period, the development of a more industrialized economy severely tested the values of an agrarian society, engendering a Populist reform movement. In the early twentieth century, Progressive reformers sought to infuse the industrial order with social justice. World War I demonstrated the extent of American power in the world. The Great Depression and World War II tested the resiliency of the maturing American nation. The Cold War ushered in an era of crises, foreign and domestic, that revealed both the strengths and the weaknesses of modern America.
Our story of American history goes beyond the major events that have helped to shape the nationthe wars fought, the presidents elected, the legislation enacted, the treaties signed. The impact of change on human lives adds a vital dimension to our understanding of history. How did the American Revolution affect the lives of ordinary citizens? What it was like for both blacks and whites to live in a plantation society? How did the shift from an agrarian to an industrial economy affect men and women alike? What impact has technology, in the form of the automobile and the computer, had on patterns of life in the twentieth century? Our narrative explores these issues as well.
Our commitment is not to any particular ideology or point of view; rather, we hope to challenge our readers to rediscover the fascination of the American past and reach their own conclusions about its significance in their lives. At the same time, we have not avoided controversial issues; instead, we have tried to offer reasoned judgments on such morally charged subjects as the nature of slavery and the advent of nuclear weapons. We believe that while history rarely repeats itself, the story of the American past is relevant to the problems and dilemmas facing the nation today, and we have therefore sought to stress themes and ideas that continue to shape our national culture.
The structure and features of the book are intended to stimulate student interest and to reinforce learning. Chapters begin with vignettes or incidents that introduce the specific chapter themes that drive the narrative and preview the topics to be discussed. Each chapter includes a chronology of key events that serves as a summary of the events covered in the chapter. Each chapter's two-tiered bibliographya shorter list of recommended readings and a longer section of additional readings, provides numerous sources students can consult for class assignments, papers and further information on many topics. The two-page feature essay in each chapter offers an in-depth examination on a high-interest topic related to the chapter themes.
There are six new feature essays in the sixth edition, five of them focusing on aspects of multiculturalism and ethnic diversity throughout American history. The new essays are:
In addition to the feature essay in each chapter, there are eight "Law and Society" essays distributed throughout the text. Each of these essays focuses on a significant legal case in American history and includes a discussion of the background of the case, excerpts from the trial transcript, and coverage of the case in the news media of the period. The concluding paragraphs of each essay invite students to explore the legal contest from the perspective of social/cultural historians. The sixth edition includes three new "Law and Society" essays:
The extensive full-color map program has been expanded to provide more information on the ethnic diversity of the United States and more integration of graphic and textual material. This edition features eighteen new or thoroughly revised maps, including Routes of the First Americans (chapter 1), The American Revolution (chapter 5), Slave Rebellions and Uprisings (chapter 13), World Colonial Empires (chapter 21), and The Breakup of Yugoslavia/Civil War in Bosnia (chapter 33). Each map includes a caption to help students identify the purpose and significance of each map.
New charts, graphs, and tablesmany with a capsulized format for convenient review of factual informationrelate to social and economic change. The rich full-color illustration program, bearing directly on the narrative, advances and expands the themes, provides elaboration and contrast, tells more of the story, and generally adds another dimension of learning. "Look at the Past" photographs are illustrations of artifacts that present students with a material record of Americas past. Captions invite them to consider the historical significance of the artifacts and make connections with similar materials they encounter today. The History Place icons appear throughout the chapter text, highlighting general and specific topics featured on The History Place Web Site. These links to the web site enrich the text's presentation of history with multimedia material, primary sources, debates and essays, timelines, and interactive maps. Each copy of the text includes a foldout chronology/map series students can use as a review aid. On one side of the foldout is a chronology of political/diplomatic, social/economic, and cultural events from the beginning of American history to the present. The other side features a series of maps tracing the territorial growth of the United States. An accompanying timeline and text provide context for each territorial acquisition, helping students see how, when, and where the United States has grown.
Although this book is a joint effort, each author took primary responsibility for writing one section. T. H. Breen contributed the first eight chapters, going from the earliest Native American period to the second decade of the nineteenth century. George M. Fredrickson wrote Chapters 9 through 16, carrying the narrative through the Reconstruction era. R. Hal Williams is responsible for Chapters 17 through 24, focusing on the industrial transformation and urbanization and the events culminating in World War I. Robert A. Divine wrote Chapters 25 through 33, bringing the story through the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War from its beginning to its end. Each contributor reviewed and revised the work of his colleagues and helped shape the material into its final form.