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American History: A Very Short Introduction 

Narrated by: Gregory St. John
Length: 4 hrs and 51 mins
Categories: History, Americas
3.7 out of 5 stars (10 ratings)

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Summary

In a miracle of concision, Paul S. Boyer provides a wide-ranging and authoritative history of America, capturing in a compact space the full story of our nation. Ranging from the earliest Native American settlers to the presidency of Barack Obama, this Very Short Introduction offers an illuminating account of politics, diplomacy, and war as well as the full spectrum of social, cultural, and scientific developments that shaped our country.

Here is a masterful picture of America's achievements and failures, large-scale socio-historical forces, and pivotal events. Boyer sheds light on the colonial era, the Revolution and the birth of the new nation; slavery and the Civil War; Reconstruction and the Gilded Age; the Progressive era, the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression; the two world wars and the Cold War that followed; right up to the tragedy of 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the epoch-making election of Barack Obama. Certain broad trends shape much of the narrative - immigration, urbanization, slavery, continental expansion, the global projection of U.S. power, the centrality of religion, the progression from an agrarian to an industrial to a post-industrial economic order. Yet in underscoring such large themes, Boyer also highlights the diversity of the American experience, the importance of individual actors, and the crucial role of race, ethnicity, gender, and social class in shaping the contours of specific groups within the nation's larger tapestry. And along the way, he touches upon the cultural milestones of American history, from Tom Paine's The Crisis to Allen Ginsberg's Howl.

American History: A Very Short Introduction is a panoramic history of the United States, one that covers virtually every topic of importance - and yet can be read in a single day.

©2012 Oxford University Press (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about American History: A Very Short Introduction 

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  • 10-05-19

gets you up to speed on US history

this is a super little book which was very useful to help access US history

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  • Tad Davis
  • 15-11-19

Brief but solid and well-informed

Paul S Boyer has packed a lot into this short and necessarily high-level view of US history. Most of the important points are covered (although, as a Civil War buff, I found his coverage of that conflict TOO high-level). His discussion of the period from the end of Reconstruction ((1876) to the beginning of World War I (1917, for the US) was for me especially useful. It's the period where my grasp of US history is weakest. He manages to tell the story without descending into a ratta-tat-tat of names and dates; he generally manages to provide enough context to keep the overall story uppermost. He devotes an unusual amount of time, for such a short history, to American culture — literature and philosophy in particular. Gregory St John is a good, brisk narrator. But there are occasional mispronunciations: he reads Khrushchev as “crew cheff” rather than the more common (but still not quite right) “cruce choff”. St John’s pronunciation isn't a matter of choice; it's simply wrong. When discussing the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War, he pronounces it “my lay.” Wrong again: the closest approximation for most English speakers would be “me lie” — which I can attest is how the name was pronounced by all news media organizations as the story of the massacre unfolded in the 1960s. It baffles me how Oxford University Press could let something like this go out uncorrected. Was the producer asleep? The author got one detail wrong, at least in an area that I know quite a bit about. He describes the Watergate break-in as being committed by the Plumbers, a White House counterintelligence unit created by Nixon. The Plumbers and the Watergate team shared personnel, but they were separate operations. Lost in the shuffle is the major role the Plumbers played in the Pentagon Papers case. But I have to admit that I'm hard-pressed to name another mistake in the text, minor or otherwise. and even this one is pretty insignificant. On the whole, this is a good overview of US history and well worth the 4 hours it takes to listen to it. The author has a steady eye and is well aware of America’s many failures, but on the whole it's an optimistic and inspiring account.

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  • Yevgen Chornenkyy
  • 19-06-15

Good listen

I enjoyed this and it was worth the money. Currently re-listening because the amount of info is so large :) happy listenings!!!

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  • ATaSh
  • 21-11-16

minimalist but accurate

I listen to it twice to get familiar to American History to get ready for my history course in college.
I just immigrated to USA and knew a less about its history in detail.
This book helped me a lot.
also has a great performance. I loved when narrator got excited during WWII and cold war.
perfect.

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  • Fr. David Elias
  • 29-02-16

It is as described "A very short introduction"

It seemed great until I came to the part of history which I know, then I felt I'm rushed. But again it's supposed to be "A very short intro". Overall it's good for what it is.

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  • Michael
  • 03-01-16

Before WWI, Not Bad, After WWI Hopelessly Biased

Dr. Boyer's account of the discovery of America, founding of Jamestown & Plymouth, the Revolution, first half of the 19th Century, and up through the Civil War & Reconstruction isn't half bad, if a bit heavy on social vs. military or political history. This is why, overall, it gets two stars instead of one. In the Gilded Age, the narrative becomes a bit "social justice" heavy, but returns to relative balance through WWI. After WWI, he seems so bent on coloring anything that can be construed as conservative or Republican as "dark", "reactionary", "intransigent" , etc., that the narrative loses objectivity and becomes a caricature of what is often criticized about academia today... namely, that objectivity gives place to ideological interpretation to ensure students know WHAT to think instead of trying to teach them HOW to think. It seems too risky to simply present the facts without ideological interpretation. And my goodness, must everything be cast in the light of racism, sexism, sexuality, or social justice? If an academic must write that, please, let them do it in the sociology department.

The reader did a good job... especially expressing the underlying contempt for the right that the author seems to have taken no pains to hide.

If you want a good, pithy, but incredibly sweeping and erudite read on history, listen to The Lessons of History by Will & Ariel Durant (read brilliantly by Grover Gardner). While you may not agree with all of the conclusions, the breadth of the analysis and the erudite, gentle, philosophical, and humble way in which is it written makes it hard to resist. I must've listened 20 times by now, and I learn something every time. A refreshing contrast to this, well, piece of work.

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