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Restless Giant: The United States from Watergate to Bush V. Gore

(Oxford History of the United States #11)

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  538 ratings  ·  52 reviews
In Restless Giant, acclaimed historical author James Patterson provides a crisp, concise assessment of the twenty-seven years between the resignation of Richard Nixon and the election of George W. Bush in a sweeping narrative that seamlessly weaves together social, cultural, political, economic, and international developments. We meet the era's many memorable figures and ...more
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published September 23rd 2005 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published August 17th 2005)
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Average rating 3.83  · 
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Jeremy Perron
Oct 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
My final stop on my march through the ages is James T. Patterson's Restless Giant. This volume has a very different feel from both Patterson's previous book Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974 (Oxford History of the United States) and from the Oxford series in general. This book is more upbeat than the previous; this could be due to the material. Grand Expectations leaves you a little emotionally down in a reflection of the disappointment of the time period. In contrast, Restless ...more
Jan 11, 2011 rated it liked it
Worthy history but a long haul and frequently rather dull. I enjoyed the portraits of the presidents from Nixon to Bush junior but in between were seemingly endless reams of statistics and data that I found a little heavy going.
Sep 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
Okay, so it's not an edge-of-your-seat thrillfest.

But if you're interested in how your world got so screwed up, Patterson has some answers.

From post-interation bussing in the 70s through Carter's good ol' boy cabinet, Reagan's public spending excesses, Bush's attempts to get the economy back on the rails, through the pop culture and electronic boom of Clinton's 90s, Patterson plots social, political and economic maps that show us how we got to where we are.

Since I wasn't born or raised in the
Sep 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
A good summary of the last 30 or so years of US history. It expains cogently the back story of our current political, social, and cultural problems.
Lauren Hiebner
Not the greatest, not in-depth, and a somewhat conservative analysis of the times. Too soon to truly be considered history.
Justin Evans
Dec 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: history-etc
A perfectly readable summary of political and cultural happenings between, as the subtitle puts it, the end of Nixon to the start of Bush II. Readable, but deeply unsatisfying, since Patterson is unwilling to actually exercise any judgement--this is a chronicle, not history. There's no causation here and no suggestion that people may have done good or bad things, just events and more events. The general tenor is "So and so said that this happened. But thus and thus said that that happened. ...more
Apr 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
From the Oxford History of the United States, Patterson presents a balanced and straightforward history of the U.S. from the resignation of Nixon to the contentious SCOTUS decision of Bush v. Gore. A central theme is the increase in various "rights movements" throughout the country by various political (and sometimes ethnic) minorities. These movements generated an ever increasing sense of entitlement among these groups and when those entitlements were not met, an increasing sense that life ...more
Jun 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Patterson struck again with this great summary of US history since 1974. The title is deceiving because he does not deal with Watergate at all. Still, the book summarizes the cultural, economic, political, and social developments in the late 20th century. My students really enjoyed it.
Tom Rowe
Aug 22, 2011 rated it liked it
I felt like I already lived through all of this before. It felt like a recap of the headlines throughout my life. I think it may still be too soon to look at this time from a historical perspective.
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It’s stated early in Patterson’s survey of the United States, which begins with Nixon’s resignation and ends with the election of George W. Bush, that the history we understand least is the one that surrounds the years of our birth — i.e., our own time.

And how!

Having read several books on topics of this time period, much of the material here is revelatory and its analyses of the cultural, economic and international events during those pivotal decades fresh.

Two standouts: Patterson makes an
Matthew Griffiths
Mar 16, 2019 rated it liked it
I love the Oxford History of the United States series and this was a welcome addition to the series covering more recent history, however as enjoyable a read as it was, it isn't of the same calibre as the rest unfortunately. Weirdly it's more the authors' style than the level of detail that I feel let this one down, the narrative jumps around a lot by theme and unless you are coming to this with a fairly detailed knowledge already of historical events it could be very hard for the casual reader ...more
James T. Patterson continues his survey history of America's postwar years with this volume that builds upon the themes he covered in Grand Expectations and shows how they became more recalcitrant leading up to 2001. The narrative is straightforward and, in my opinion, very objective. There are a lot of political, foreign policy, and economic perspectives, along with cultural considerations, that underline the main events and trends.

Jeff J.
Dec 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
A comprehensive history of the United States from 1975-2000. The author is particularly strong on economics (the impact of technological advances such as personal computers and the internet), and to a lesser degree social history (the end of the sexual revolution due to the Aids epidemic). It was fun to relive the incredible popularity of Ronald Reagan and his presidency, in sharp contrast to the corruption and arrogance of the Clinton administration. Recommended!
Nick Harriss
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Following on from the high standards of the other Oxford History of America series I have listened to, this was not quite as interesting to me. While covering 1973-2000, compared with 1945-1973 and 1929-1945, not dissimilar timescales, it went into much less detail (it is just over half the length of the previous two volumes), albeit that the period covered meant much was within my living memory. It is still an excellent book, just not as good as its predecessors.
Tom Schulte
Mar 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Historical author James Patterson assesses the twenty-seven years between the resignation of Richard Nixon and the contested election of George W. Bush. This narrative encompasses social, cultural, political, economic, and international developments in a context of "culture wars" between liberals and conservatives. At times, such as calling Gulf War Syndrome a "conspiracy" and with criticisms of sex, etc. in art I feel Patterson is possibly much more conservative than I, yet I feel this does not ...more
Aug 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: grad-school
A good, although sometimes boring, overview of America from 1970s-2001. I read this for a graduate class on America since 1975 and it was invaluable in helping me comprehend the primary sources I had to read for class.
Sep 17, 2016 added it
Patterson’s Grand Expectations is duly noted, but I think time has been moving quicker and Restless Giant, though obviously too close to the period to really see as much as will someday be seen, is still an immensely valuable book.

When I was growing up, history really ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union with perhaps some attention to Terrorism and so forth. We needed to talk about the history of the country. It seems that basically, the same annoying thing that happened in the fifties
Rick Johnson
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A well-written, cohesive review of US history from Nixon to Bush 43.
Feb 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
"James Wilson, a thoughtful social scientist, observed in 1995: "Today most of us have not merely the hope but enjoy the reality of a degree of comfort, freedom, and peace unparalleled in human history. And we can't stop complaining about it." pg 364

The second book of James T. Patterson in the Oxford History series which takes up from Watergate through Bush v Gore but wraps things up shortly after Bush is in Office, not speaking of 9-11 in any serious way that informs you of the particulars. He
John Wetterholt
Nov 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Prof. Patterson extends the Oxford History of the United States series with this spiritedly written follow-up to his magisterial "Grand Expectations." This subsequent volume traces the quarter century following Watergate and concludes with a vivid recounting of the tumultuous presidential election of 2000.

Several areas which I felt were under-served in "Grand Expectations" received more extensive discussion in "Restless Giant." Among these were popular culture, gay rights, and the interplay of
Joseph Stieb
Mar 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
First Oxford history of the US that I've completely finished, and I enjoyed it well enough. Patterson is a clear writer who organizes the book well. His major theme is that decline narratives about the US in this time period have been persistent, but are mostly inaccurate. He notes that Americans were generally more tolerant, educated, and well-off by 2001 than they were in 1974. The prosperity trend is particularly significant, as Patterson notes that the US became the most powerful and wealthy ...more
Dec 02, 2012 rated it liked it
This was my first experience with The Oxford History of the United States series. Originally, I was going to read these volumes in chronological order, but library availability made it more feasible to start with the most recent events chronicled, from 1974 to 2000. If there was anything I learned, it was this: This series is well-researched. The cited footnotes are exhaustive (and exhausting), really increasing the read time so that getting 40 pages of reading in really feels like work. It took ...more
Mar 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Good read. Provides lots of great insights into the history of the US starting in the 70s through the electoral crisis of 2000. Provides really great insights into recent history. Left me surprised about how much recent history I didn't recall especially including the electoral crisis in 2000. As an example I didn't recall that the Supreme Court case Bush v Gore decision hinged on the fourteenth amendment and the equal protection clause. I found that laughable and hypocritical of a conservative ...more
Robert Dooner
Nov 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is the latest chronologically in the Oxford History of the United States. Having read and learned much from Grand Expectations 1945-1974 by the same author, James T. Patterson, I was very excited to read this book.
Covering the history of the United States across a 25 year period in a single volume under 500 pages is a daunting task. But Patterson more than meets the challenge. He successfully records the political, social, and economic events and their impact on the American
Nov 29, 2011 rated it it was ok
James Patterson's second contribution to the Oxford History of the United States (after his Bancroft Award-winning Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974) is by far the weakest volume of the series. Part of it is the result of the problem posed by contemporary history, which lacks the perspective provided by distance from events and an ability to render an assessment based on knowing what were the long term consequences. Patterson recognizes this difficulty, yet his response ...more
Brian Hutzell
Jul 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Of the six volumes of The Oxford History of the United States which I have read, this and the previous volume, Grand Expectations, are my least favorite, largely because of author James T. Patterson’s obsession with numbers. Long strings of numerical data occur too frequently in the main text, and disrupt the narrative flow. Such statistics are a valuable supplement to the historical record, but would be more meaningful and less intrusive if presented not as long paragraphs full of numbers, but ...more
Jan 30, 2016 rated it liked it
A well written but overly broad coverage of the last 25 years of America in the 20th century. At first I thought that the length of this book (half that of most others in the series) was a relief but everything ended up seeming rushed and shallow. Born in 1987, I learned only a fraction of this book by living it and so to those who were reading the politically and socially aware during this whole time the book must be horribly boring.
This book would, however, make an excellent textbook for a
Nov 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Patterson delivers another smash hit in his book on the United States from Watergate to Bush v. Gore. This book is a less historiography study and more of a statistical approach than other oxford books but it is nonetheless expertly presented. The analysis is top quality and the sense of how the United States became restless (especially during the 1990's is apparent. Patterson makes a good argument that we have to wait and see what effect 9/11 will have and whether or not it was the changing ...more
Nov 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Great book from Patterson. For those of my generation, this book paints a close picture of the political scape of our parents and I think is extremely valuable to read for the sake of understanding the previous generation to where our memory picks up and forms our own options.

Particularly loved the insights into the personalities of the presidents. In the biographical essay in the back Patterson lays all the most influential books he read by subject (i.e. economics, politics, education, etc...)
Glen Pekin
Aug 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This is the first actual overview history of my own times that I have read as to opposed to a specific subject in current events. They book skims a vast era. Sadly the vast era becomes bogged down in sex and pop culture - just like I remember it. It is hard, from our comfort zone of easy living to realized the magnitude of event. As seen from TV as I saw them, things like the Berlin Wall and the Balkans seemed like unreal pictures on a screen. The flood of information deadens our perception. ...more
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James T. Patterson is an American historian, who was the Ford Foundation Professor of History at Brown University for 30 years. He was educated at Harvard University. His research interests include political history, legal history, and social history, as well as the history of medicine, race relations, and education.

Other books in the series

Oxford History of the United States (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789
  • Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815
  • What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815 - 1848
  • Battle Cry of Freedom
  • The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896
  • Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945
  • Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974
  • From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776
  • Years of Peril and Ambition: U.S. Foreign Relations, 1776-1921
  • The American Century and Beyond: U.S. Foreign Relations, 1893-2014