by Thomas P. Slaughter
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014
Pity the poor high school teacher of American History. They have so much required material to cover, along with an assortment of topics mandated by various outside agencies, that they cannot possibly cover everything, much less make what they do cover interesting.
I know from my own education (way back in the Mists of Time – the 1980s, to be precise), that when it came to American history we were briefed on the colonies in Jamestown and Plymouth – and then suddenly it was a century and a half later, and the Revolutionary War was starting in Boston. Slaughter attempts to rectify this omission.
Tomorrow-Land: The 1964-65 World’s Fair and the Transformation of America
Lyons Press, 2014
Ah, the 1964-65 World’s Fair. The last gasp of 50’s optimism, where good ol’ American Know-How and “can do” spirit would solve all the problems of the world and make the future wonderful. A showcase for America’s industrial might and corporate prowess, as well as a sort of “coming out” party for the new nations of the world that had just achieved independence.
Tirella doesn’t look at the Fair itself. This is not a guidebook. Rather, he uses the Fair as a focal point for all the changes taking place in American culture and society. For the Fair seemed to somehow draw them all into its orbit.
The War of 1812 gets little respect. It didn’t produce a clear victor, and there weren’t any of the great battles of the sort that armchair historians and military buffs love to study. That isn’t fair, according to author Steve Vogel. As his subtitle “Six Weeks that Saved the Nation” suggests, the war pretty much ensured the future of the United States.