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To America: Personal Reflections of an Historian

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  1,959 ratings  ·  199 reviews
In "To America," Stephen E. Ambrose, one of the country's most influential historians, reflects on his long career as an American historian and explains what an historian's job is all about. He celebrates America's spirit, which has carried us so far. He confronts its failures and struggles. As always in his much acclaimed work, Ambrose brings alive the men and women, famo ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published November 19th 2002 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2002)
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Average rating 3.88  · 
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 ·  1,959 ratings  ·  199 reviews

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David Huff
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I recently had the pleasure of visiting my good friend, and Goodreads friend, Graeme Roberts, who was kind enough to give me a copy of this book, along with his personal inscription, as a remembrance. I don't know how it came about that I had never read any of Stephen Ambrose's work, but I very much enjoyed reading this one. It was the last book he published before his death in 2002.

"To America" is a wonderful blend of Ambrose's personal recollections about his career: how he became an historian
Aug 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
An amazing book! A personal reflection on American history from a leading US Historian. Goes into showing the American spirit and what made this country great. Lewis and Clarke's expedition, manifest destiny, and the war of 1812 are just some points. Stephen Ambrose seamlessly blends historical fact with his view on how these events forged who we are today as a country, a society, and a free people! Truly a book every American should read! ...more
Jan 13, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
My father gave me this book last summer before my husband and I embarked upon a long cross-country road trip. I did actually begin the book in the car along the way, but didn't finish it until this past week. I have a mixed opinion about the book, complicated even farther by my English teacher reaction to some articles I've since read about Ambrose's writing and alleged plagiarism in some of his books (articles I plan to use in class for those serious discussions with my students about what it a ...more
Feb 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
For fans of the late historian (Ambrose died in 2002) this book is something of a treat as it tells how he became an historian (he was a pre-med student initially), how he got into the writing game, and the stories behind all the books he had written. Throughout the book there is always a theme of transition and progression, not just in the sense of America as a nation, but in Ambrose as a scholar, writer, man and citizen; as he studies the history of the nation and its peoples, he progresses fr ...more
Stephen Ambrose gives some overall thoughts on what America actually is, using his decades of scholarship, study and writing to back himself up. He defends several critiques of American history: the bombing of Japan in WWII, for example, or the myth of Native American harmony with nature. He speaks at length about the work involved in history scholarship, and through his description, his love becomes the reader's as well.

Must say, I'm a bit irritated at Ambrose on occasion in this book (God res
May 30, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction, gave-up
In this random collection of things Ambrose wants to talk about, he tries to leave behind his school of "Old White Male History," but he just can't. Nor he can avoid a sometimes stunningly Amerocentric attitude. When Americans win a war or a battle, they do it with more glory and bravery than was ever seen before in history. When they accomplish some feat, it is better than any feat that ever came before. And when they form a hatred towards someone, that too is stronger than anyone else's hatred ...more
Trevor Ralls
Aug 13, 2009 rated it did not like it
With such masterpieces as "Undaunted Courage", "Band of Brothers" and "D-Day", it is difficult to write a negative review of Stephen Ambrose's epitaph contemplation "To America: Personal Reflections of An Historian". Ambrose applies 21st century thought to 18th century events, a sin by any historian's standards. Within the first 5 pages, Ambrose stoops to discounting Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, as a "racist", a "bigot" and an "intellectual coward" (how can an ...more
Jun 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I downloaded this on Audible before I left, and listened to it through Iowa and Missouri, running down through Hannibal to St Louis. Finished it when I got back home.

I really enjoyed Ambrose's insights into and knowledge of some of the great people and events of American history. And I learnt a lot.

This is kind of the "history behind the history". This is Ambrose telling us why he became interested in certain subjects, often on the most trivial of happenstances. It's also a bit of a roadtrip thr
Guy Choate
Sep 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'd never read any of Ambrose's books, so this book provided a nice survey of his body of work through 2002. Writing about the events in history that shaped this country had to have been a lot different in 2002 than writing about them a year later, after we'd invaded Iraq. Ambrose writes with such optimism toward the way America is seen around the world. At one point he talks about what the future of warfare will look like--essentially rebuilding a nation's infrastructure while earning that nati ...more
Peter Mayeux
Feb 29, 2012 rated it liked it
Ambrose offers an eclectic set of historical profiles and his opinions about each topic or event. I enjoyed his writing style. His casual source citations detracted from the work. For my tastes, I tired of his constant references about his academic background, research activities, and teaching experiences. Since this was Ambrose's last book, I should not pass judgement on his selection and presentation of these historical events. I would like to read another of his books, especially one of the b ...more
May 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-stars, favorites
Stephen Ambrose, one of our country’s preeminent historians, writes about writing history. It’s a refreshing look at some of the men and women, famous or not, who have made the United States a model for the world. Ambrose celebrates America’s spirit, confronting our failures and struggles. If you love history, and the stories about the people who shaped our destiny, pick up this book. It’s a quick read, but one you’ll want to add to your bookshelf.
Dave Gaston
To America", was Ambrose's very last effort, but it should not be the first book you read from him. My favorite American historian tossed me a little zinger from the grave (Master Steve... no disrespect intended!). I assumed, from his dust jacket, that this was a tribute collection of his favorite moments in history told in sequence. I've always had a pipe dream to do just that; line up all my favorite historical books (like little dominoes) and kick-off a chain reaction rolling forward through ...more
Jul 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an entertaining and informative book from one of America’s most notable historians. The theme is his life of telling the American story using the stories of many ordinary people who experienced extraordinary events. Certainly, he writes about massive figures such as Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Nixon, about whom he published lengthy books. But he purposely wrote books about lower ranking American fighting men to see war from their perspective. Either way Ambrose’s style is to focus on the m ...more
Zach Scheller
Aug 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-books
I read this on a whim, not realizing how incredibly timely the subject matter is. While I don't agree with Ambrose on everything, I did feel his discussions in this book are important - to boil down complex times and people into a singular position is, at best, misguided. America's history is a troubled one, and we shouldn’t shy from that. But our ability to recognize that trouble in the first place and ultimately find solutions is largely built on the framework that our history is built on. Don ...more
Oct 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Most Historians spend their lives striving to maintain objectivity on their chosen subjects. The reader should be allowed to make their own interpretations of the information represented. But the successful historian author (such as Stephen Ambrose) has refined their narrative skillful to expand interest in the material. This, I believe, can bend objectivity ever so slightly. But it's also why Ambrose is one the best selling historians of the last twenty years. He knows how to tell history in a ...more
Cheryl Gatling
This book is a collection of essays. The first chapters are about historical topics: Thomas Jefferson, President Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, the American Indian wars, World War II. Later topics become more and more personal. He writes about his experiences writing most of his famous books: the people he met, the experiences he had. He describes how rancor over the Viet Nam war divided his family, so that he and his brothers did not speak for years. He describes how he came to care about African-A ...more
Jennifer Stringer
Jun 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, history
Once again, taking on my kid's summer reading assignment. This book was a much better choice than last year's history reading assignment. Actually, it's the first time I've read Stephen Ambrose, though I had certainly heard of him. He wrote the book shortly before he passed on and I'm sure he must have known he was dying as he wrote it. It reads like a love letter to America, with a real "Letters to a Young Poet" vibe. He describes his life as a historian - his regrets and his proudest moments - ...more
Nov 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Written as Stephen Ambrose was suffering from the lung cancer that would ultimately take his life. It is written not as his typical books covering a particular person or event in history, but in a series of personal essays on the topics that he covered in his career. If you are looking for something different than a series of essays, then I suggest picking up Citizen Soldiers: The U S Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany or Undaunted Courage.

I liked the way Amb
Jul 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Stephen Ambrose was one of my favorite historians. He was an excellent writer that brought a "you are there" quality to his works. In many cases, he actually had been there, such as on the Missouri River following the footsteps of Lewis and Clark, which made his books more authoritative and readable. Sadly, he passed away due to cancer in 2002, but he managed to finish this last work.

"To America" is a little bit memoir, a little bit "greatest hits," and a little bit patriotic hymn to America. In
Michael Gerald
Jan 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
Another typical Ambrose book that promotes the myth that it was only the US that won the Second World War and omits its hegemonic actions.
May 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
It made me want to read all his books and I enjoyed some of his personal anecdotes. Made me want to read all his books and see the D-Day museum in New Orleans
Jul 14, 2018 rated it liked it
(Audio book)

Familiar with Ambrose from "Band of Brothers", "D-Day" and "Citizen Soldiers" I looked forward to this collection of thoughts and reflections by a famous historian. I had so enjoyed the collection of speeches and essays by David McCullough, that I was sure I would love this book too.

I'm ambivalent.

The life of a historian can be very interesting. Researching and writing, telling stories of people, not just the battles and politics. Ambrose certainly had opportunities to research, inte
Carol Bakker
The form of this book reminded me of Barbara Tuchman's Practicing History. As their career comes to its end, authors of history have so many unused scraps, untold stories, unexplained episodes; of course, they stitch them together into another book. The memoir element is strong. Here is an opportunity to express their personal opinions, reactions and convictions.

What impressed me the most was how studying the documents changed Ambrose's mind about so many things. He often compares how he first t
Terri Lynn
Oct 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, history
I had to read this for a graduate school seminar. I am not wild about American history. Still, Ambrose gives a unique view of events and it feels like you are time traveling with Ambrose.

Ambrose almost lost me when he explained that his father refused to "give" his mother "permission" to get a job since he and his brothers and dad thought a woman's place was at home taking care of her husband and kids and finally he "gave her permission" to get involved in local boards and she got elected but h
Jan 22, 2009 rated it liked it
Due to the events of the past week, I've been feeling very patriotic, and I wanted to read something distinctly so. I found historian Stephen Ambrose's last book "To America" to be just such a book. Written right before he died in 2002, this short book is a look back over event's and guiding principles he thinks have been key to the success of our country. A history teacher's final lecture.

Stephen Ambrose was attracted to military history. According to him, "the key events in American history w
Oct 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. And, I am by no means a history buff! I am bias although, because I have read several of Ambrose's books and have enjoyed them all. Ambrose is one of my favorite authors and the only "History Author" I like. I enjoyed the way Ambrose shared his insights and his "takes" from the exhaustive reasearch that he has done, related to American History. I especially admired his candidness in sharing with the readers - that he learned a certain American history topic "one" ...more
Mar 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
Just a famous historian and author, riffing on his personal thoughts about various historical figures, his career, and the state of the world. Being a famous historian/author, you expect to read a lot of documentation on reasons, and you get that here -- reasons why Ambrose thinks the way he does. For instance, although I don't believe he actually said that his favorite president was Teddy Roosevelt, he certainly makes the case. His thoughts on Jefferson -- over-rated. He covers other people and ...more
Oct 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
What this book basically consists of is Stephen Ambrose rambling, and that is grade-A awesome. Ambrose was a master historian, a man passionate about history and a spectacular writer. To America represents an overview of his career, told by the man himself. It hits all his major topics with a few devoted to figures he never got around to writing books for. Where he strove to be more objective in his previous books, To America is where he lets out a lot of his aggression on certain historical top ...more
Kit Dunsmore
Jul 01, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This turned out to be a personal look at history - how Ambrose became an historian and how he reacted to the things he chose to study. One of the things I really liked about it was his honesty in pointing out how he had gone with the academic crowd's current opinion when he first starting teaching, and where he has since come to a different opinion due to his own research and experiences. It was nice to hear an academic admit to having been wrong at some point, and to have changed his mind over ...more
Oct 06, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Like the title implies, this book is the author's opinion on controversial topics in American history. Stephen E. Ambrose provides insight into such topics as the Battle of New Orleans, the construction of the 1st transcontinental railroad, racism, the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant (and other Presidents), the Vietnam War, WWI, & WWII. He provides arguments for his opinions & changes from previously held views on these topics. Issues discussed include war & capitalism. I would recommend this boo ...more
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Stephen Edward Ambrose was an American historian and biographer of U.S. Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Richard M. Nixon. He received his Ph.D. in 1960 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In his final years he faced charges of plagiarism for his books, with subsequent concerns about his research emerging after his death.

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