Pivotal Decades: The United States, 1900-1920

Pivotal Decades: The United States, 1900-1920This is a very interesting book although I think the author shows a distinct bias for Wilson and against Roosevelt Of course, that is just my impression It helped to read Roosevelt s autobiography and Wilson s The New Freedom while I read this book to get context and the words of the men the author was critiquing. I wanted to like this book because it s one of the few historical surveys that offer insight into the period between 1900 and 1920, and especially because it s a chronological survey mostly , which is rare for the period try and find one of the latter half of the 19th century The problem is that so much of the small details are wrong the hill that TR and the Rough Riders rode up as San Juan Hill instead of Kettle Hill he listed the title of John Maynard Keynes s book as The Economic Consequences of Peace instead of The Economic Consequences of The Peace that I have to imagine some of what Cooper wrote on the post Taft years which I m not as familiar with must be wrong as well Add to that the fact that there must be over 50 half page photos, the vast majority of which are totally unnecessary that the book runs at least 40 pages longer than it should When you re looking for a historical survey and see that it s 400 pages, you think That s a good length Then, when you realize that the amount of reading actually contained in it is closer to 300 pages, you start to question whether topics are being covered in enough depth.Unfortunately, there aren t too many options out there for this kind of book focusing on this exact period If, like me, you re looking to brush up on your US history, you d likely be better served reading individual books of a narrow scope presidential bios are particularly good in this period. These Were The Years In Which Two Of Our Greatest Presidents Theodore Roosevelt And Woodrow Wilson Transformed The Office Into The Center Of Power In Which The United States Entered The World Stage And Fought Its First Overseas War In Which The Government S Proper Role In The Economy Became A Public Question And In Which Reform Became An Imperative For Muckraking Reporters, Progressive Politicians, Social Activists, And WritersIt Was A Golden Age In American Politics, When Fundamental Ideas Were Given Compelling Expression By Thoughtful Candidates It Was A Trying Time, However, For Many Americans, Including Women Who Fought For The Vote, Blacks Who Began Organizing To Secure Their Rights, And Activists On The Left Who Lost Theirs In The First Red Scare Of The CenturyJohn Cooper S Panoramic History Of This Period Shows Us Where We Came From And Sheds Light On Where We Are A basic survey political history of the US from 1900 1920 Pretty well done although Cooper is, in my opinion, way too eager to be even handed and often ends up trying weakly to justify or to condemn some pretty objectionable idiotic behavior on the part of his historcal actors This is especially true of one of his pet favorites, Teddy Rooseveldt While Rooseveldt was a colorful and dynamic leader, Cooper s presentation frequently borders on adulation and consistently ignores the fullest implications of some problematic strains in Rooseveldt s thinking especially on race In this regard Cooper makes little to no effort to situate Rooseveldt s racial views in the larger pseudo scientific sociological eugenic movement of the period and ignores Rooseveldt s frequent references to the biological inferiority of non white races PP 107 108, 124 Instead of openly labelling these racist positions however, Cooper points out simply that in his own way Rooseveldt was outdoing Southern whites in blaming the victims of racism Small wonder that TR failed to hear the anguished cries of distress of these Americans 102 This half hearted condemnation is virtually buried under a mountain of praise for Rooseveldt s other progressive doctrines As a sort of faux ami, it acquits Cooper of the charge of failure to address race without actually addressing the full cultural political implications of the issue Other insatnces of this kind are less controversial perhaps but represent places where Cooper appears to be trying to render coherency to the actions statements of actors that actually seem to be inconsistant This suggests to the reader that Cooper may be unduly reductionist in his treatments of the thinking of some figures.These are definitely major issues, but as long as the reader is aware of them while reading this work, it is a good introduction to the politics and foreign affairs of the US in the early twentieth century. A rich text that really dives in depth on the political, societal, cultural, and sociological structure of America during a mere twenty years, namely, from 1900 1920, Milton Cooper Jr., does an excellent job at displaying unbiased information that isn t normally taught in our American history courses out of national pride or fear The honesty and forthrightness found in the text regarding the true nature of the slander, malice, mud slinging and propaganda is just sheer brilliance Moreover, there are also pictures from campaign stops to political cartoons sprinkled in and around the text throughout the book All in all, a pleasant and insightful read Much information was verified as I went through this book a must read for the American historian.Brent McCulley 10 24 13 This aptly named book concisely and clearly introduces the reader to the pivotal decades of American history, that point in its history in which the United States finally made the transition towards being a world power which would so dominate the subsequent history of the world Cooper largely follows the biographies of the two men who most dominated the era, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, in his narrative of the history This is an understandable technique given both that importance of these two men to this period in history and the Cooper s prior work as the author of a dual biography on the two In addition to the well laid out narrative and insightful analysis, Cooper also offers a number of excellent suggestions for further reading on all of the greatest subjects and people of the era at the close of the book I recommend this book for anyone interested in reading about the great forces that led to the formation of modern America and set the tone for the twentieth century. Cooper presents a well founded and supportive case that the early 1900s were significant in ushering in the US foreign policy shift from isolation to involvement He traces a number of significant themes within domestic policy such as reform, the labor movement, women s rights, and racism to show how these decades were formative for the subsequent events after WWII Very dense read, but very well written Worth the time to pick it up and discover how these were pivotal decades. If you have read Barbara Tuchman s fantastic book The Proud Tower I think this book is a relevant and great add The importance of the first two decades shaped the nation for the rest of the century This period laid the groundwork for much of what followed international relations, race relations, the red scare, the FBI , the Fed the key character Teddy and Woodrow, I highly recommend this book This book was one of my texts for a 20th century history class in my graduate program I usually do not get excited over required readings but this book proved to be very well written and very interesting This book goes into detail about the political wranglings of the early 20th century We learn about the driving forces behind prohibition and how many politicians played this card to gain election All together I would reccomend this book not only for history students but for anyone simply interested in the era. Now my march through the ages brings me to the early decades of the twentieth century It was an era of dynamic political leadership and technological innovation of a maturing nation trying to figure out its destiny This was a time where old ideas were being challenged and America was going to fight in an a great international conflict known as World War I In the aftermath of the war the United States would decide if it was going to play a leadership role in the world And that decision would to go in the opposite direction of world leadership, preferring instead retreat and withdrawal.The century began with the reelection of the last Civil War veteran to occupy the White House William McKinley, the 25th President of the United States, would win his re election against William Jennings Bryan Months into his new term, McKinley would be assassinated, and his cowboy vice president, Theodore Roosevelt, would assume the office.One of the main themes of Copper s book is how rich America was in leadership during this time period Each political party produced an incredible president who would help reshape the nation and the office of the presidency The Republicans produced Theodore Roosevelt by accident Placed in the vice presidency in an effort to get rid of him, Roosevelt would become our most dynamic president ever No vice president who assumed the presidency had ever even been re nominated, but Theodore Roosevelt in 1904 would go on to win a term in his own right due to his incredible performance in the White House The Democrats produced Woodrow Wilson an academic who gained the office because of a scism within the Republican Party between Roosevelt and Taft Wilson had studied the American political system his entire life and was about to make theory reality He would bring back the tradition of presidents delivering the State of the Union address in person He would hold regular press conferences and his success with the Congress in producing legislation that was lasting, such as the Federal Reserve, dwarfed that of his predecessors It was ironic that Roosevelt resembled Jefferson in his intellectual range and depth There was no predecessor whose legacy and influence, particularly on states rights and the support of limited governmental responsibilities, the new president disliked As a self proclaimed Hamiltonian, Roosevelt meant to exalt the power and prestige of the federal government As a self anointed heir of Lincoln and Civil War Republicanism, he yearned to preserve his party s fidelity to nationalism and centralization But the resemblance to Jefferson was than intellectual Roosevelt likewise quickly became a patron of science, scholarship, art, and literature Prominent among the Roosevelts frequent and well publicized guests were the painters John La Farge and Frederic Remington, the sculptor Augustus Saint Gaudens, the historian James Ford Rhodes, and the Western novelist Owen Wister The president promoted scientific research thought the Smithsonian Institution, which had been founded in 1846, and boosted public art by commissioning Saint Gaudens to redesign the nation s coins In all, through his public pronouncements, associations, and private encouragement and criticism, Roosevelt made himself a cultural arbiter such as the United States had rarely seen before in a president p.36 Even the president who served in the middle of the two giants was a great intellectual named William H Taft Despite being a one term president who was incapable of using the pulpit of the presidency as his two rivals could, Taft not only continued with the trust busting started by Roosevelt but he also had surpassed him Taft even beat John D Rockefeller s great machine, Standard Oil One of the reasons Presidents Roosevelt and Taft had been so successful is they did not take permenant sides when it came to management and labor They sided with whoever they felt was in the right The greed of the rich and the envy of the poor repelled him equally, and during the 1890s he had repeatedly feared incipient social revolution Roosevelt had then stood unhesitatingly with pro business Republicans against radicals and Bryanite Democrats, whom he had luridly likened to the zealots of the French Revolution Yet he had never believed that the cure for ills caused by the growth of big business and industry lay in choosing sides In 1894, Roosevelt had told his friend Henry Cabot Lodge that to control mobs he would send troops who were not over scrupulous about bloodshed but I know that banker, the merchant and the railroad king well too, and they also need education and sound chastisement p.37 8 Cooper points out that in addition to the presidents, on the next level on the American political ladder, the men who lost the presidential elections were great men as well William Jennings Bryan was a legend in his own day who had helped reshape the way presidential candidates campaign Charles Evans Hughes would go on to become chief justice of the United States Supreme Court Only Al Parker, who was nominated in 1904, did not go on to become a legend There were also incredible senators and governors during this period such as Henry Cabot Lodge and Robert La Follette Among the African American community men such as Booker T Washington and W.E.B Dubois were continuing the debate that they had begun against each other and for the African American community in the 1890s And there were also women such as Jane Addams who was a pioneer in the area of social work.Copper also discuss the average American whose life was increasingly changing because of technology The rise of America s past time and the celebrity status of baseball greats such as Babe Ruth and the infamous Shoeless Joe Jackson, who was involved in the Black Sox scandal that tainted the 1919 World Series.But the biggest event of these decades was World War I America tried to stay out of the war over there for the longest time but unrestricted submarine warfare and the Zimmerman note would tip America into the conflict Led by their commander, General Blackjack Pershing, American soldiers would conduct themselves valiantly Having to go through the horror of war they helped push the tide and were ultimately responsible for victory over the Empire of the Kaiser But combat was not an unrelieved horror Because most American troops saw action in the summer and fall counteroffensives of 1918, they experienced the exhilaration of a war of movement World War I produced its share of colorful tales of fighting and inspiring stories of heroism, such as Corporal, later, Sergeant York Equally celebrated heroes had already emerged from the ranks of aviators The minuscule but highly publicized air war had long provided both the movement missing on the ground and the opportunity for knight like individual combat Before 1917, enough Americans had joined the French air arm to form the nucleus of the Army Air Corps in France Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, a former automobile racer who went to France as General Pershing s chauffeur and learned to fly there, downed twenty six German aircraft and later became a pioneer in civilian aviation p.282 Instead of the America embracing its role as a leading world power, the United States would ultimately shrink from its responsibility Woodrow Wilson would fail at what had mattered to him most, the League of Nations This travesty would do a great deal of damage to America s next generation John Milton Cooper does a great job telling the story of the early twentieth century America I highly recommend this book to anyone Presidents Washington and Adams had done it, but Jefferson had ended the practice.

John M Cooper born 1940 is an American historian, author, and educator His specialization is late 19th and early 20th century American Diplomatic History Cooper is currently Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin Madison.

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  • Paperback
  • 432 pages
  • Pivotal Decades: The United States, 1900-1920
  • John Milton Cooper Jr.
  • English
  • 13 May 2018
  • 9780393956559

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