Douglas Brinkley narrative covers the major events of United States history. This book is a good beginning for someone who wants to the basics of United States history.
Douglas Brinkley’s, History of the United States, is part of the American Heritage Series. With limited amount of space, Brinkley touches on the basic history of the United States from Christopher Columbus to the late twentieth century.
Brinkley begins with background information on the resurgence of Europe. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 came economic growth, a revival for the arts and a passion to expand nationally. This was the beginning of the Renaissance and Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America.
Brinkley refers to the man who America is named for, Amerigo Vespucci. Giving background information on Vespucci, paints an accurate picture of United States’ history. Readers who are unaware of Vespucci learn of his contribution to the United States. Vespucci was an Italian navigator who journeyed to the mouth of the Amazon in 1499 and realized that he was in a new land and not Asia. This discovery only quickened the colonization of America. With Colonization come political, social, and civic duties, which spin money. Brinkley has set his goal for this book in motion.
Brinkley describes how the American economy grew from ground up to the late twentieth century. He points out that our economic growth sadly came from the stripping of other cultures, particularly the Native Americans. As mentioned earlier, due to lack of space, Brinkley did not address the saga of the American Indian as deeply as he could have. However, he did state that when Columbus came to the new world in 1492 “he found a highly developed society of approximately seventy-five million people speaking nearly 2,000 different languages”.
Since Brinkley’s space was limited, he took the opportunity to focus on the greed of the early Europeans and the celebrations of Columbus’ discovery. To the Native American the Columbus Day celebration is a reminder of their lost culture. He quotes a supporter and biographer of Columbus, Howard Zinn, “The cruel policy initiated by Columbus and pursued by his successors resulted in complete genocide”. Brinkley went on to say the bottom line of Columbus’ journey was to expand European wealth no matter the cost to the natives.
As Brinkley explains the various events during the development of the United States and its emerging power throughout the world, it is not difficult to see the continual connection between events within the United States and the events in Europe. Brinkley gives several examples of this such as the Protestant Reformation, which brings several Europeans to America who want religious freedom, the Spanish-American War makes the United States a world power, the two World Wars, the Jazz Age, which involves artists and writers moving to Paris to live, the Korean War, the Cold War, space exploration, the Vietnam War, the Iran Hostage Crisis, the Reagan years, Panama, the Persian Gulf War, and telecommunications. Along with the description of events, Brinkley also includes several colored pictures and maps.
Brinkley currently serves as director at the Theodore Roosevelt Center for American Civilization in Dickinson, North Dakota and teaches history at Tulane University in Louisiana.
- Brinkley, Douglas. History of the United States. New York: Penguin Putnam, Inc., 1998.