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Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974 (Oxford History of the United States #10)

4.02  ·  Rating Details ·  751 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
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, and 80 percent of the automobiles. The U.S. then had three-fourths of the world s go ...more
Paperback, 829 pages
Published November 20th 1997 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published April 18th 1996)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Craig Werner
Apr 12, 2014 Craig Werner rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, sixties
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 history is economic growth and increased expectations in almost every realm of life: race relations (the civil rights movement), foreign policy (the nation's purported ability to impose its will and/or freedom on the world without necessarily bothering to learn the difference between Venezuela and Vi ...more
Adrian Carpio
Jun 21, 2010 Adrian Carpio rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: american-history
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 very pivotal period in American history.

It touched upon all the major events, incidents and trends of the era. Patterson took some complicated events that not only had economic and political impact but social ramifications, as well.

Patterson did a great job stressing how Vietnam helped spoil the great
...more
Aaron Million
Apr 14, 2012 Aaron Million rated it liked it
Shelves: american-history
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 that today, if Americans think of Civil Rights, they seem only to think of Martin Luther King, Jr. The movement was so much more than him, although obviously he was a great leader who inspired millions of people. Patterson details how the various factions were forced to acknowledge each others' differe ...more
Florence Millo
Nov 04, 2011 Florence Millo rated it it was amazing
Grand Expectations by James Patterson

I 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 of my childhood and youth.  I read the book slowly because I remember so much of the period.  Civil rights, school desegregation,  the assassinations of John and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Vietnam, feminism, Watrgate, and Nixon's resignation.  The Cold War and the nuclear arms race.  Wow,
...more
Nicholas T-R IV
Feb 26, 2007 Nicholas T-R IV rated it it was amazing
I read this book at a very ignorant state in my life which probably inflates my opinion of a most likely mundane historical text.
Brian
Dec 18, 2016 Brian rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
" Thieu, overwhelmed by a North Vietnamese military offensive, was forced to resign on April 21, 1975. As His loyalists scrambled desperately to climb aboard U.S. helicopters, Hanoi ran up its flag in Saigon on May 1 and renamed the capital Ho Chi Minh City. South Vietnam was a state no more.
American leaders had underestimated the will to fight of the North, overestimated the staying power of the South, and misjudged the endurance of the American people. There are events in the world that not e
...more
Bryan
Nov 11, 2016 Bryan rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A thoughtful and interesting exploration of a period of history I was a little fuzzy on. I especially like how the author would interpret the history and give informed opinions about policies and decisions parties would make. It makes for good copy as I gained a better understanding about policies that are in place today. It's a good contrast to books by H. W. Brands for example, who presents facts and policies with the criticism of them at the time, without the consensus of their impact by hist ...more
Jeremy Perron
Oct 05, 2012 Jeremy Perron rated it really liked it
My march through the ages has me now arriving at James T. Patterson's Grand Expectations, covering an era where my grandparents were building their families and my parents were kids. Since this book is about the recent past it is far more tangible than anything I have read so far. It begins in the world where America--with her allies--had just one World War II. Everything seemed so perfect for America was all-powerful, the world's most free nation that had just freed the world, the reforms of th ...more
Tonya Covarrubias
Feb 06, 2017 Tonya Covarrubias rated it it was amazing
This book is easy to read and provides a balanced view of the time period. Highly recommended.
John Wetterholt
Oct 20, 2014 John Wetterholt rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Professor Patterson's grand study of the three decades following World War II is broadly researched, cogently written, and deft in its explanations of the knotty problems that confronted the United States from the Truman years through Watergate. In chapters that alternate between domestic issues and foreign relations, we gain a clear understanding of the politics and culture of the period, the push for civil rights for blacks and women, the perceived threat of Communism, the Korean and Vietnam W ...more
Daniel
Oct 31, 2009 Daniel rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-reading
It's a bit of an odd experience reading a history book and having it reach the period where I'm alive... My memories of the 1970s are pretty fuzzy, especially the first part of the decade, what with me being concerned with things like being born and learning how to use the toilet.

In getting a game set in the late 1950s ready I decided to do a little bit of research. Given I enjoy history, James Patterson's Grand Expectations was already on my to-read list. Grand Expectations covers the period fr
...more
David Webber
Aug 09, 2013 David Webber rated it really liked it
This was a long read (over 750 pages), but I chose to tackle it since, like most people my age, this period of history was not covered at all in my history classes in school, which tended to end at WWII. This book proved to be a very good summary of this period of US history. I felt this book was well balanced in its approach, and I would look forward to reading more from this series.

According to the 1940 census, only one-third of Americans 25 years or older at the time had gone beyond the eight
...more
Matt
Aug 16, 2010 Matt rated it really liked it
I found this a fast and interesting read. I also found it to be both very objective and not very objective, depending how you read it.

As for objectivity, the author does an excellent job in analyzing and explaining the important and controversial events in this time period. For a given event, he would usually describe the event, then describe arguments by critics (both contemporary and modern)that are both critical and in favor of the event. He would then give his own criticism of the event, whi
...more
Martin Zook
Nov 10, 2013 Martin Zook rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
James Patterson's Grand Expectations is an informative and delightful addition to the Oxford History of the United States.

There obviously is much to cover in the '45-'74 era, both domestically, which saw the U.S. transformed into today's consumer society after WW II, while simultaneously undergoing a rights revolution; but also on the international scene as the country emerged from WW II with immense concentrated wealth, and one of two countries vying to create spheres of global influence.

Much s
...more
Christopher
Jun 26, 2015 Christopher rated it really liked it
Patterson's history of America from 45-74 proceeds from the premise that Americans, both generally and in among interest groups (ethnic, religious, political) began to have great hopes for the future due to the relative affluence and peace that they were experiencing following WWII. Notwithstanding the intense Cold War and anti-communist environment, people in America still believed the trend of society was upward. This optimism and hope gave rise to increased calls for civil rights and greater ...more
John Heyhoe-Griffiths
Enjoyable and informative history of the United States, 1945-74. The author's theme for this period is that America began with grand expectations for its future - a belief that it could accomplish almost anything and that its progress had no limits. But after the tumult of the sixties, the failure of the Vietnam war, and the stalling of the economy, those grand expectations dissolved into a skepticism and cynicism about the future.

The author focuses primarily on presidential policy, foreign affa
...more
John E
Jun 27, 2015 John E rated it really liked it
It's a big book (almost 800 pages), but well worth the time to read it. It covers the presidencies of Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon. The postwar world put the USA at the top of the heap and Americans thought they could do anything. These Grand Expectations of what could and would be done were undercut by the reality of the world and the dominant paranoia of anti-communism. In the end the reaction against failed expectations condemns Americans to the belief spoken by Reagan that ...more
Mike Boutot
Jul 30, 2015 Mike Boutot rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: new-shelf
I really enjoyed this installment of the Oxford History of the United States, spanning 1945-1974. I was fascinated by the beginnings of the some of the trends and social movements that still affect us today. For instance, while the section on the rise of values conservatism is not as extensive as that in Kevin Phillips' "American Theocracy," it had a different perspective and gave different information than other sources. I thought at times the book spent too much space on dry statistics, but th ...more
Brian
Feb 12, 2012 Brian rated it it was amazing
Shelves: america
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 and with a simple narrative.

Older review:

Skipped a bit here and there, but this kind of book invites that. Patterson's central point was how America had a spirit of optimism after World War II and had "Grand Expectations" for its future which united it. In the sixties and seventies, this broke down, e
...more
Eunice Schroeder
Jun 29, 2008 Eunice Schroeder rated it really liked it
What I've learned so far: how the postwar economic boom created the most affluent society on earth and raised expectations for ever higher levels of wealth, power, and happiness for all Americans. The 50s were economic boom years, even more so the sixties, which saw the high tide of liberalism, especially under Johnson in 1964 (Civil Rights Act) and 1965 (Medicare, Medicaid, Voting Rights Act, federal aid to education, immigration reform). However, these liberal programs created unforeseem probl ...more
Mike
Aug 05, 2007 Mike rated it really liked it
Considering the turbulently heroic times just before it this period in U.S. history is a bit of a letdown. American optimism runs aground during the cold war.

Is it just me who thinks this or were there a lot of really asinine moves made under the guise of 'fighting communism'. A strain of long-term foolishness culminating in the current Iraq debacle. Like we no longer know how to make a move unless an -ism is invoked.
Brandy
Dec 09, 2013 Brandy rated it it was amazing
Read this for a grad school class.
Although I haven't read the other American history books in the Oxford series, I thought this was an incredible survey of American from 1945-1974. Patterson manages to touch on just about everything, which is, in my opinion, a pretty awesome feat. I will not only keep this book for basic reference, but also will use it if I ever have the pleasure of teaching a survey course.
Converse
Jul 05, 2010 Converse rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A good read; main thesis is that a combination of good economic growth until the 1970s, & the rights revolution of the 1960s, together gave many Americans a sense that the future would be much better than the past, leading to a sense of disgruntlement when it started being only somewhat better in the 1970s.
Chris
May 20, 2009 Chris rated it liked it
This was an informative read about an interesting era, but it wasn't written with the verve that some of the other volumes in this series had. And as a pet peeve, I get that the author's central thesis was that the American people had ""grand expectations" for their lives and their country during this time, but seeing the phrase literally every other page was distracting and cheesy.
ben
Sep 06, 2007 ben rated it it was amazing
a thoroughly comprehensive view of US politics, culture, economics, and everything else from post WWII to the end of the vietnam era. not light reading, but definitely provides a nearly objective view of some of the key issues of the time.
Pedro
Mar 06, 2007 Pedro rated it really liked it
Good survey of US history from WWII to the seventies. Very good on the presidency, race relations and foreign affairs, especially the Korean and the Vietnam war. Arguments about society and the economy based on numbers, although sources uncertain.
Jana
Dec 09, 2011 Jana rated it really liked it
The author looks at all that happened during this time period from many different perspectives and lets the reader choose how to interpret it. The Civil Rights Movement is particularly interesting.
Ladygwen
Jan 19, 2012 Ladygwen rated it liked it
Shelves: hillsdale, 2012
For my History of America after WWII with Dr. Moreno. A good, comprehensive guide, occasionally with good attitude. Like the class, this textbook disappointed me a little- in modern America we have access to all the primary resources, and yet we read this textbook.
Robin
Apr 09, 2013 Robin rated it liked it
Shelves: history
A decent, but not great, review of US from 1945 to 1974. Too much detail and over use-of statistics in some cases. Author also interjects his opinions / bias that are at times over stated.
Matthew Hurley
Comprehensive, informative, interesting. Shattered my childhood illusions about the moral character of our presidents.
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“Truman charged that Republicans were "Wall Street reactionaries," "gluttons of privilege," "bloodsuckers," and "plunderers." GOP legislators in the 80th Congress, he said, were "tools of the most reactionary elements" who would "skim the cream from our natural resources to satisfy their own greed." Dismissing Dewey, "whose name rhymes with hooey," Truman said, "If you send another Republican Congress to Washington, you're a bigger bunch of suckers than I think you are." "Give 'em hell, Harry!" the people shouted back. "Pour it on!"59” 1 likes
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