An Introduction to American History 1860-1990

Mark Rathbone reviews a textbook on American History.

An Introduction to American History 1860-1990


Alan Farmer & Vivienne Sanders

Hodder & Stoughton, 2002

313 pages, £13.99

ISBN 0-340-80326-6

Hodder’s popular Access to History series of topic books has recently been expanded with the launch of Context textbooks. Midway in size between topic books and full-size textbooks, they are designed to bridge the gap between GCSE and AS/A-level and to act as a link between topic books.

Alan Farmer and Vivienne Sanders are already well-known as the authors of several Access to History books on American History, such as Farmer’s Reconstruction and the Results of the American Civil War and Sanders’ excellent books on Vietnam and Civil Rights.

So this book comes with a good pedigree and there are certainly some good bits in it. The Civil War is dealt with in an admirably well-organised and readable way, the section on the origins of the Cold War is a masterly summary of a complex issue, and the chapter on Race Relations is an excellent introduction to the topic.

There are, however, some real problems with this book. Clearly in compressing 130 years of American History into 300 pages, the authors had to make some difficult decisions about the level of detail to include. I don’t think they have got them entirely right.

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