Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974

Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974

Beginning in 1945, America rocketed through a quarter-century of extraordinary economic growth, experiencing an amazing boom that soared to unimaginable heights in the 1960s.

At one point, in the late 1940s, American workers produced 57 percent of the planet's steel, 62 percent of the oil, 80 percent of the automobiles. The U.S. then had three-fourths of the world's gold supplies. English Prime Minister Edward Heath later said that the United States in the post-War era enjoyed "the greatest prosperity the world has ever known." It was a boom that produced a national euphoria, a buoyant time of grand expectations and an unprecedented faith in our government, in our leaders, and in the American dream--an optimistic spirit which would be shaken by events in the '60s and '70s, and particularly by the Vietnam War.

Now, in Grand Expectations, James T. Patterson has written a highly readable and balanced work that weaves the major political, cultural, and economic events of the period into a superb portrait of America from 1945 through Watergate. Here is an era teeming with memorable events--from the bloody campaigns in Korea and the bitterness surrounding McCarthyism to the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, to the Vietnam War, Watergate, and Nixon's resignation. Patterson excels at portraying the amazing growth after World War II--the great building boom epitomized by Levittown (the largest such development in history) and the baby boom (which exploded literally nine months after V-J Day)--as well as the resultant buoyancy of spirit reflected in everything from streamlined toasters, to big, flashy cars, to the soaring, butterfly roof of TWA's airline terminal in New York. And he shows how this upbeat, can-do mood spurred grander and grander expectations as the era progressed.

Of course, not all Americans shared in this economic growth, and an important thread running through the book is an informed and gripping depiction of the civil rights movement--from the electrifying Brown v. Board of Education decision, to the violent confrontations in Little Rock, Birmingham, and Selma, to the landmark civil rights acts of 1964 and 1965. Patterson also shows how the Vietnam War--which provoked LBJ's growing credibility gap, vast defense spending that dangerously unsettled the economy, and increasingly angry protests--and a growing rights revolution (including demands by women, Hispanics, the poor, Native Americans, and gays) triggered a backlash that widened hidden rifts in our society, rifts that divided along racial, class, and generational lines. And by Nixon's resignation, we find a national mood in stark contrast to the grand expectations of ten years earlier, one in which faith in our leaders and in the attainability of the American dream was greatly shaken.

The Oxford History of the United States
The Oxford History of the United States is the most respected multi-volume history of our nation. The series includes three Pulitzer Prize winners, a New York Times bestseller, and winners of the Bancroft and Parkman Prizes. The Atlantic Monthly has praised it as "the most distinguished series in American historical scholarship," a series that "synthesizes a generation's worth of historical inquiry and knowledge into one literally state-of-the-art book."

Conceived under the general editorship of C. Vann Woodward and Richard Hofstadter, and now under the editorship of David M. Kennedy, this renowned series blends social, political, economic, cultural, diplomatic, and military history into coherent and vividly written narrative.

Title:Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9780195117974
Format Type:

    Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974 Reviews

  • Craig Werner

    The title accurately identifies the unifying theme of this massive synthetic history. Patterson argues that from the end of World War II through the sad endgame of Watergate, the keynote of American h...

  • AC

    I agree with some of the other readers that this book in the Oxford series did not have the same "punch" as McPherson's "Battle Cry of Freedom," for example, but it still was a great survey of this ve...

  • Umar Farooq

    A very important book to read for any follower of contemporary US politics. The author has done his job immaculately (damn thats a mouthful but could not think of another word right now). The book sta...

  • Aaron Million

    This is a good book. Patterson does an excellent job of flushing out all of the disparate groups that came together - and opposed each at various times - to form the Civil Right movement. It seems tha...

  • Florence Millo

    Grand Expectations by James PattersonI cannot overstate how much I enjoyed this history of the United States from the end of World War II to 1974.  I am a baby boomer and this book covers the period ...

  • Piker7977

    Grand Expectations is a straightforward history of America's postwar years (1945-1974). Patterson does not have any major surprises as he focuses on how the U.S. had a euphoric optimism, "grand expect...

  • Brian

    Oh goody! I've read this book pretty much cover to cover now. Love that description of LBJ stroking his own bust. In fact, his descriptions of all the presidents are very good. A true tour-de-force an...

  • Nicholas T-R IV

    I read this book at a very ignorant state in my life which probably inflates my opinion of a most likely mundane historical text....

  • Michael

    Listened to via Books-on-Tape.While faulting Paterson for missing an opportunity to show the intersections of public and private life, to merge popular culture with politics and to place women's lives...

  • Anne

    I bought this book (I have it in both audio and hardcover) because I wanted an objective narrative history of the U.S. to balance those opinions that are narrower in viewpoint. Well, the book delivere...