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A Little History of the United States Paperback – 6 September 2016

4.6 out of 5 stars 184 ratings

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“As a very readable rattle through the basic facts of a remarkable story this Little History is hard to beat. - Roger Cox, Scotsman
“This is a little history with a big heart, meant to be savored more than studied, read out loud like poetry, or perhaps sung like a hymn. - Joseph J. Ellis, author of Founding Brothers
“With imagination, verve and stylishness, James Davidson distills American history into its compelling essence. For newcomers to the subject, an incomparable primer; for veterans, the familiar made fresh with judicious insight. - H. W. Brands, University of Texas at Austin
“A book of literary grace and narrative invention. Not only the writing but also the conceptualization consistently engage the reader. Uncommonly imaginative. - Christine Heyrman, author of Southern Cross and American Apostles
“A persuasive and enjoyable read. Davidson faced a herculean task in condensing more than five hundred years of history into a slim volume. He fulfills this difficult brief with authority and brio. - Richard Aldous, author of Reagan and Thatcher: The Difficult Relationship
“Davidson takes familiar stories from America's past and adds novelistic flair. . . . From the first pages, the author shows enthusiasm for his project, describing the difference between people who ‘make' history and people who ‘write' it. - Kirkus Reviews“Davidson . . . opens this smooth overview of 500 years of American history, beginning with Columbus's arrival, with an engaging premise, arguing that we all make our own history pieced together out of personal memories, which in turn become the warp and weft of the cloth of history. - Publishers Weekly
“This is a clear, at times dramatic . . . traditional historical narrative that can serve well as an introductory text. - Booklist“Davidson has written a work that should lead readers to reflect anew on America's past and present . . . We can all use not just a good refresher course on American history, but also some good historical thinking on how we might better realize freedom, equality, and E pluribus unum. - The Daily Beast
“This attractive, eminently readable account covers the United States, from founding times to the current day . . . Seldom has this story been told from such an approachable viewpoint. Students will flock to the book. - Library Journal
“To the ranks of Yale's series of “little histories (art, science, the world, etc.) James West Davidson now adds his pithy and surprisingly sharp A Little History of the United States, which despite its title begins its story well before the thirteen American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain. - Open Letters Monthly
“A lively, not-so-little look at the little ways that people from all walks of life, cultures, backgrounds, and incomes came together to make a nation. - Q Salt Lake Magazine

About the Author

James West Davidson, a widely respected historian, has written on American history and the detective work that goes into it, as well as books about the outdoors. He lives in Rhinebeck, NY.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ *Yale University Press; 1st edition (6 September 2016)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 344 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 030022348X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0300223484
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 20.57 x 13.21 x 2.79 cm
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.6 out of 5 stars 184 ratings

About the author

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James West Davidson is a historian, writer, and wilderness paddler (more at He received his Ph.D. in American history from Yale University and writes full time. He is also co-editor, with Michael Stoff, of New Narratives in American History, a series published by Oxford University Press, as well as the coauthor of several textbooks in American history, including one, with Mark Lytle, on how historians go about their work: After the Fact: The Art of Historical Detection. His most recent book is "A Little History of the United States," published by Yale University Press.

From the author:

On a river, an eddy line marks the boundary between slack water and swift. One side, you float idly in a calm haven; crossing the line, you're grabbed by the river and swept quickly downstream. As a historian, I've crossed more than one eddy line, each new current pulling in a different direction. One of my books is consumed with thinking about the end of the world; another describes several expeditions across the barrens of Labrador; yet another views the rise of segregation through the eyes of one woman.

A common theme uniting these starkly different subjects is an attraction to journeys and their obsessional consequences. If you believe that the prophecies of the Bible are playing out around you in real time--and that the world's end may be drawing nigh--how does that belief affect your day-to-day social and political views? I explored that question in "The Logic of Millennial Thought: Eighteenth-Century New England." If you are a black woman born into freedom after the Civil War, and wish mainly to teach school, find a husband and enjoy a decent middle-class life, how do unfolding events in the 1880s and 1890s propel you to risk life and limb by speaking out against the rising epidemic of lynching? That's the subject of "They Say': Ida B. Wells and the Reconstruction of Race." If you launch into the wilderness of Labrador in 1903, hoping to win fame as a young journalist, how far will you court starvation in order to succeed? And if you're the widow of the man who pushed too far, where will your own compulsions lead you? "Great Heart: The History of a Labrador Adventure" retraces those life-and-death obsessions.

We all begin journeys thinking we know where we're going. We seldom do. Yet the particular path of every life springs from the way in which an individual bends, breaks, or masters the larger movements of the day. As a historian, retracing such journeys provides a singular pleasure, akin to riding the unpredictable currents of a river from its turbulent headwaters to its final outwash in the sea.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Nice little overview of 500 years.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 5 August 2021
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james mcnaught
5.0 out of 5 stars What the book contains
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3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
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Opina J
5.0 out of 5 stars Muy bien
Reviewed in Spain on 5 September 2019
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