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Recasting America; & The Proud Decades, America in War and Peace

By Brian Dooley | Published in History Today 1989 
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Two new titles on American post-war history.

  • Recasting America - Culture and Politics in the Age of the Cold War
    Edited by Lary May - University of Chicago Press, 1989 - 310 pp.
  • The Proud Decades, America in War and Peace
    John Diggins - W.W. Norton, 1988 - 582 pp.

There is some confusion over whether America in the 1950s was basking in the glory of a world war victory and enjoying a consumer paradise, or gripped by anxiety and teetering on the verge of a national nervous breakdown. While some Americans spent their free time acclimatising to nuclear shelters, others were discovering civil rights, Marilyn Monroe, and rock and roll. Diggins, as is evident from his title, opts for the great and glorious interpretation of America in the years immediately following the war, largely because the US survived and prospered. In his overwhelmingly orthodox analysis of the Cold War, he includes criticisms of President Truman's decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japan, but dismisses the revisionist arguments only by restating the original wisdom of saving American lives. Less excusable is his treatment of the McCarthy phenomenon. President Eisenhower, he claims, was right not publicly to attack the wayward Wisconsin senator, because a confrontation would have divided and confused the public.

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