The Democratic Experiment: New Directions in American Political History

Princeton University Press
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In a series of fascinating essays that explore topics in American politics from the nation's founding to the present day , The Democratic Experiment opens up exciting new avenues for historical research while offering bold claims about the tensions that have animated American public life. Revealing the fierce struggles that have taken place over the role of the federal government and the character of representative democracy, the authors trace the contested and dynamic evolution of the national polity.

The contributors, who represent the leading new voices in the revitalized field of American political history, offer original interpretations of the nation's political past by blending methodological insights from the new institutionalism in the social sciences and studies of political culture. They tackle topics as wide-ranging as the role of personal character of political elites in the Early Republic, to the importance of courts in building a modern regulatory state, to the centrality of local political institutions in the late twentieth century. Placing these essays side by side encourages the asking of new questions about the forces that have shaped American politics over time. An unparalleled example of the new political history in action, this book will be vastly influential in the field.

In addition to the editors, the contributors are Brian Balogh, Sven Beckert, Rebecca Edwards, Joanne B. Freeman, Richard R. John, Ira Katznelson, James T. Kloppenberg, Matthew D. Lassiter, Thomas J. Sugrue, Michael Vorenberg, and Michael Willrich.

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About the author

Meg Jacobs is Assistant Professor of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. William Novak is Associate Professor of History at the University of Chicago and Research Fellow at the American Bar Foundation. He is the author of The People's Welfare. Julian E. Zelizer is Associate Professor of Public Policy, Public Administration, and Political Science at the State University of New York at Albany. He is the author of Taxing America.
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Additional Information

Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jan 10, 2009
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History / Americas (North, Central, South, West Indies)
History / United States / General
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The Presidency of George W. Bush brings together some of today's top American historians to offer the first in-depth look at one of the most controversial U.S. presidencies. Emotions surrounding the Bush presidency continue to run high--conservatives steadfastly defend its achievements, liberals call it a disgrace. This book examines the successes as well as the failures, covering every major aspect of Bush's two terms in office. It puts issues in broad historical context to reveal the forces that shaped and constrained Bush's presidency--and the ways his presidency reshaped the nation.

The Presidency of George W. Bush features contributions by Mary L. Dudziak, Gary Gerstle, David Greenberg, Meg Jacobs, Michael Kazin, Kevin M. Kruse, Nelson Lichtenstein, Fredrik Logevall, Timothy Naftali, James T. Patterson, and the book's editor, Julian E. Zelizer. Each chapter tackles some important aspect of Bush's administration--such as presidential power, law, the war on terror, the Iraq invasion, economic policy, and religion--and helps readers understand why Bush made the decisions he did. Taking readers behind the headlines of momentous events, the contributors show how the quandaries of the Bush presidency were essentially those of conservatism itself, which was confronted by the hard realities of governance. They demonstrate how in fact Bush frequently disappointed the Right, and how Barack Obama's 2008 election victory cast the very tenets of conservatism in doubt.

History will be the ultimate judge of Bush's legacy, and the assessment begins with this book.

NAMED A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2017#1 New York Times and #1 Wall Street Journal bestseller!
A Best Book of 2017 from the Boston Globe
One of the 12 Best Books of the Year from National Geographic
Included in Lithub's Ultimate Best Books of 2017 List
A Favorite Science Book of 2017 from Science News

A five-hundred-year-old legend. An ancient curse. A stunning medical mystery. And a pioneering journey into the unknown heart of the world's densest jungle.
Since the days of conquistador Hernán Cortés, rumors have circulated about a lost city of immense wealth hidden somewhere in the Honduran interior, called the White City or the Lost City of the Monkey God. Indigenous tribes speak of ancestors who fled there to escape the Spanish invaders, and they warn that anyone who enters this sacred city will fall ill and die. In 1940, swashbuckling journalist Theodore Morde returned from the rainforest with hundreds of artifacts and an electrifying story of having found the Lost City of the Monkey God-but then committed suicide without revealing its location.

Three quarters of a century later, bestselling author Doug Preston joined a team of scientists on a groundbreaking new quest. In 2012 he climbed aboard a rickety, single-engine plane carrying the machine that would change everything: lidar, a highly advanced, classified technology that could map the terrain under the densest rainforest canopy. In an unexplored valley ringed by steep mountains, that flight revealed the unmistakable image of a sprawling metropolis, tantalizing evidence of not just an undiscovered city but an enigmatic, lost civilization.

Venturing into this raw, treacherous, but breathtakingly beautiful wilderness to confirm the discovery, Preston and the team battled torrential rains, quickmud, disease-carrying insects, jaguars, and deadly snakes. But it wasn't until they returned that tragedy struck: Preston and others found they had contracted in the ruins a horrifying, sometimes lethal-and incurable-disease.

Suspenseful and shocking, filled with colorful history, hair-raising adventure, and dramatic twists of fortune, THE LOST CITY OF THE MONKEY GOD is the absolutely true, eyewitness account of one of the great discoveries of the twenty-first century.
Filled with fresh interpretations and information, puncturing old myths and challenging new ones, Battle Cry of Freedom will unquestionably become the standard one-volume history of the Civil War. James McPherson's fast-paced narrative fully integrates the political, social, and military events that crowded the two decades from the outbreak of one war in Mexico to the ending of another at Appomattox. Packed with drama and analytical insight, the book vividly recounts the momentous episodes that preceded the Civil War--the Dred Scott decision, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry--and then moves into a masterful chronicle of the war itself--the battles, the strategic maneuvering on both sides, the politics, and the personalities. Particularly notable are McPherson's new views on such matters as the slavery expansion issue in the 1850s, the origins of the Republican Party, the causes of secession, internal dissent and anti-war opposition in the North and the South, and the reasons for the Union's victory. The book's title refers to the sentiments that informed both the Northern and Southern views of the conflict: the South seceded in the name of that freedom of self-determination and self-government for which their fathers had fought in 1776, while the North stood fast in defense of the Union founded by those fathers as the bulwark of American liberty. Eventually, the North had to grapple with the underlying cause of the war--slavery--and adopt a policy of emancipation as a second war aim. This "new birth of freedom," as Lincoln called it, constitutes the proudest legacy of America's bloodiest conflict. This authoritative volume makes sense of that vast and confusing "second American Revolution" we call the Civil War, a war that transformed a nation and expanded our heritage of liberty.
Elections are, and always have been, the lifeblood of American democracy. Often raucous and sharply contentious, sometimes featuring grand debates about the nation's future, and invariably full of dramatic moments, elections offer insight into the character and historical evolution of American politics. America at the Ballot Box uses the history of presidential elections to illuminate American political democracy and its development from the early Republic to the late twentieth century.

Some of the contributions in America at the Ballot Box focus on elections that resulted in dramatic political change, including Jefferson's defeat of Adams in 1800, the 1860 election of Lincoln, and Reagan's 1980 landslide victory. Others concentrate on contests whose importance lies more in the way they illuminate the broad, underlying processes of political change, such as the corruption controversy of Cleveland's acrimonious election in 1884 or the advent of television advertising during the 1952 campaign, when Eisenhower defeated Stevenson. Another set of essays takes a thematic approach, exploring the impact of foreign relations, Anglophobia, and political communications over long periods of electoral time. Uniting all of the chapters is the common conviction that elections provide a unique vantage point from which to view the American political system.

Ranging from landmark contests to less influential victories and defeats, the essays by leading political historians seek to rehabilitate the historical significance of presidential elections and integrate them into the broader evolution of American government, policies, and politics.

Contributors: Brian Balogh, Gareth Davies, Meg Jacobs, Richard R. John, Kevin M. Kruse, Jeffrey L. Pasley, Andrew Preston, Elizabeth Sanders, Bruce J. Schulman, Jay Sexton, Adam I. P. Smith, Sean Wilentz, Julian E. Zelizer.

Congress is the heart and soul of our democracy, the place where interests are brokered, laws are established, and innovation is turned into concrete action. It is also where some of democracy's greatest virtues clash with its worst vices: idealism and compromise meet corruption and bitter partisanship. The American Congress unveils the rich and varied history of this singular institution.
Julian E. Zelizer has gathered together forty essays by renowned historians to capture the full drama, landmark legislation, and most memorable personalities of Congress. Organized around four major periods of congressional history, from the signing of the Constitution to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, this volume brings a fresh perspective to familiar watershed events: the Civil War, Watergate, the Vietnam War. It also gives a behind-the-scenes look at lesser-known legislation debated on the House and Senate floors, such as westward expansion and war powers control. Here are the stories behind the 1868 vote to impeach President Andrew Johnson; the rise of Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress and a leading advocate for pacifism; and the controversy surrounding James Eastland of Mississippi, who carried civil rights bills in his pockets so they could not come up for a vote. Sidebars further spotlight notables including Huey Long, Sam Rayburn, and Tip O'Neill, bringing the sweeping history of our lawmaking bodies into sharp focus.
If you've ever wondered how Congress worked in the past or what our elected officials do today, this book gives the engaging, often surprising, answers.
An authoritative history of the energy crises of the 1970s and the world they wrought

In 1973, the Arab OPEC cartel banned the export of oil to the United States, sending prices and tempers rising across the country. Dark Christmas trees, lowered thermostats, empty gas tanks, and the new fifty-five-mile-per-hour speed limit all suggested that America was a nation in decline. “Don’t be fuelish” became the national motto. Though the embargo would end the following year, it introduced a new kind of insecurity into American life—an insecurity that would only intensify when the Iranian Revolution led to new shortages at the end of the decade.

As Meg Jacobs shows, the oil crisis had a decisive impact on American politics. If Vietnam and Watergate taught us that our government lied, the energy crisis taught us that our government didn’t work. Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter promoted ambitious energy policies that were meant to rally the nation and end its dependence on foreign oil, but their efforts came to naught. The Democratic Party was divided, with older New Deal liberals who prized access to affordable energy squaring off against young environmentalists who pushed for conservation. Meanwhile, conservative Republicans argued that there would be no shortages at all if the government got out of the way and let the market work. The result was a political stalemate and panic across the country: miles-long gas lines, Big Oil conspiracy theories, even violent strikes by truckers.

Jacobs concludes that the energy crisis of the 1970s became, for many Americans, an object lesson in the limitations of governmental power. Washington proved unable to design an effective national energy policy, and the result was a mounting skepticism about government intervention that set the stage for the rise of Reaganism. She offers lively portraits of key figures, from Nixon and Carter to the zealous energy czar William Simon and the young Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Jacobs’s absorbing chronicle ends with the 1991 Gulf War, when President George H. W. Bush sent troops to protect the free flow of oil in the Persian Gulf. It was a failure of domestic policy at home that helped precipitate military action abroad. As we face the repercussions of a changing climate, a volatile oil market, and continued turmoil in the Middle East, Panic at the Pump is a necessary and lively account of a formative period in American political history.

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