The American Future: A History

The American Future: A History Epub Ö The American


    The American Future: A History Epub Ö The American of the chapters devoted to the most compelling issues facing Americans now the projection of power American war race, immigration and the problematic promise of e pluribus unum American skin the intensity of religious conviction in public life American fervour the mystique of American land and its battles with the imperatives of profit American Plenty Schama traces the deep history of the present crisisCumulatively the chapters build into a history of American exceptionalism the American difference that means so much to its people but which has led it into calamities as well as triumphs The American Future A History argues that if you want to know what is truly at stake, you need to absorb these stories and understand this history for understanding is the condition of hope."/>
  • Hardcover
  • 392 pages
  • The American Future: A History
  • Simon Schama
  • English
  • 02 January 2017
  • 1847920004

10 thoughts on “The American Future: A History

  1. Trevor Trevor says:

    This is such an interesting book I ve decided recently I need to learn a bitabout American history but know so little that I have been struggling with the who s who and then what to make of various players American history is much like America herself a bit like Norman Bates in Psycho, pleasant when you first meet him, but he can be a bit, well, psycho too America has the best of people and the worst of people Often these are one and the same person Jefferson, for example, is someon This is such an interesting book I ve decided recently I need to learn a bitabout American history but know so little that I have been struggling with the who s who and then what to make of various players American history is much like America herself a bit like Norman Bates in Psycho, pleasant when you first meet him, but he can be a bit, well, psycho too America has the best of people and the worst of people Often these are one and the same person Jefferson, for example, is someone I really do need to find outabout, and not just his slaves, but also his relationship with Native Americans, and as for Andrew Jackson, what an evil bastard he was imagine literally burning the treaties Washington had signed There are times when I regret being an atheist and so can have no hope that pricks like him won t get to suffer for the rest of eternity in hell fires.I hadn t realised that Schama had made a four part documentary in the lead up to the last US Presidential election I would have liked to have seen it However, from what I can gather this book seems quite different if not the least for being muchcomprehensive in that it doesn t even seem to follow the structure of the documentary If you were to ask me what this was about I would have to say America and her relationship with the peoples of rest of the world although, really, that is all those people who are not white, Anglo Saxon and Protestant, whether they live in the rest of the world or next door Schama captures the split personality duel personality of the US people beautifully a country that can proudly proclaim, send me your poor and huddled masses and yet have pogroms against the Chinese, that can fight a civil war to free slaves, but follow up with the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans, that can declare it to be self evident that all men are created equal while owning slaves The chapters in this book on the US involvement in the Philippines is extremely distressing and, worse still, terrifyingly reminiscent of US involvement in Iraq The descriptions of the tortures meted out to the niggers that is, local Filipinos particularly the unspeakably barbaric water cure almost defies belief But again, I must readMark Twain his attack on American Imperialism due to these atrocities and perversions of the American dream places him even further up my list of American heroes Perhaps the most interesting story in this book was that of the American military family, the Meigs I had heard the story of how Arlington Cemetery came to be built on the home of Robert E Lee It is hard to think of adirect statement of loathing than to turn someone s home into a cemetery how better to say, this thou have wrought than to bury the soldiers killed in the Civil War right up to the windows of the general fighting that war All of the Meigs discussed in this book, and their long involvement in American wars, were fascinating, but I think Monty Meigs remains one of the most fascinating of all in fact, both of the Monty Meigs Civil War and Vietnam War are incredibly interesting men.I think this was precisely the sort of history of America I needed to read It is a quirky history written by an outsider looking in America remains a paradox to me for what other country can inspire quite so much hope and at the same time quite so much fear and despair The chapter on Carter, Reagan and the energy crisis and the all too obvious fact that Americans simply don t want to hear we have reached peak oil or that it may be time to think about tomorrow, was particularly depressing The spoilt brat side of the American psyche worries me very much but it is important to remember that it is not just Americans who buy SUVs It beggars belief that anyone could think it a good idea to drive around in a lounge room when there is any chance at all that those warning about global warming might just be right even if the chance they are right was the most remote chance imaginable if only it was The idea that the world would move to heavier cars so as to burn our future faster just about proves we are a species that deserves to perish.This is a wonderful book, and one that should do much to remind you of the great evil that racism is in all its guises Well worth the read


  2. Kara Babcock Kara Babcock says:

    I wouldn t necessarily describe myself as anti American, but I will cop to having anti American sentiments I have plenty of American friends, but I chose to move to England before the United States and, to be perfectly honest, I don t think I could ever bring myself to live in the United States There are just some ideas so apparently entrenched in American society that seem so backward to me And I know my American friends understand a lot of it seems backward to them too It s something of a t I wouldn t necessarily describe myself as anti American, but I will cop to having anti American sentiments I have plenty of American friends, but I chose to move to England before the United States and, to be perfectly honest, I don t think I could ever bring myself to live in the United States There are just some ideas so apparently entrenched in American society that seem so backward to me And I know my American friends understand a lot of it seems backward to them too It s something of a trend these days to discuss the hijacking of American politics Corporations have hijacked politics ultra right wing evangelicals have hijacked politics Tea Party patriots have hijacked politics at this rate, if Bigfoot hasn t hijacked politics by December, I will be disappointed There is, of course, a great deal of truth in some of these perspectives, and these discourses are valuable At the same time, one should not neglect the fact that the United States has always been in a state of uneasy tension between religious freedoms and religious establishment, between liberal and conservative, between society and business So much of the hijacking happening today is not so much an aberration as it is the latest recurrence in a long line of such events, as Simon Schama attempts to demonstrate in The American Future A History.Here are some things I learned from The American Future A History Some of them are obvious, yes, and probably don t require a book to become evident But it s always good to be reminded.There were no good old days Well, maybe if you were a rich, white, European male But if you re a rich, white male today, wake up and stop complaining your days are still pretty good The idea that the United States of the past was somehow a golden land of opportunity and prosperity, and that it has since declined into its present state, is a myth Imperialism, racism, and colonialism have always been a part of the United States of America The religious persecution that so many of the original colonists fled in coming to the shores of the New World eventually caught up with them, and Catholics, Jews, and the apostate Protestant sect of the week were routinely barred from livelihoods and politics Let s not even get started about slavery.Despite the bad, we too often forget about the good In our rush to cringe at the past, sometimes it s easy to overlook the people who stood up against tyranny and oppression I m not talking about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and other revolutionaries or Founding Fathers I m talking about the people who, quietly or not, worked tirelessly on behalf of the disenfranchised, the minorities, every group who did not get a voice in the system From Return Jonathan Meigs to Fred Bee, there were numerous good people who deserved to be remembered for trying to stop oppression and atrocities, even if they were ultimately unsuccessful.Hero worship is for losers The way or at least this is how it seems from my perspective as an outsider Americans are taught to venerate the Founding Fathers and other such historical figures without much time spent oncritical perspectives really concerns me I understand that it s a big deal that these people helped liberate the colonies from British rule But they weren t gods they were ordinary, flawed individuals Jefferson had some good ideas He also owned slaves And, while his attitude towards the indigenous peoples of the Americas was not as antagonistic as Andrew Jackson s, it still rested upon the principles of Eurocentric, cultural assimilation And from what I read about the various textbook guidelines being pushed in certain states, I doubt these views are being explored And it s a shame, because if there s one thing studying any history, from the United States or elsewhere, can teach us, it s We can do so, so much better We ve got a long way to go In the two centuries since gaining independence, the United States has changed greatly but in some ways, it and the rest of the world continues to repeat the same old mistakes Claiming we are superior to the people of the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries, that we ve learned our lessons, is misguided at best and woefully delusional at worst It will be interesting to see what historians two hundred years hence write about our intolerance and indiscretions.But I m still an optimist Even if I would let myself, I can t bring myself to yield to despair and the cynical proposition that we have finally achieved that crucial intersection of environmental irresponsibility, cultural apathy, and anxious nationalism that will somehow doom us all History shows that humans are really, really good at screwing things up We re also really, really good at surviving our mistakes, in one form or another.And armed with the knowledge of andimportantly, the discussion sparked by history, we can do better Schama s history, like a lot of popular history books, tends to focus on episodic accounts of individuals contributions It s easier that way we like narratives and we like protagonists And while that doesn t always provide an holistic view of the era, it does recreate one salient feature individuals can make a difference I m trying not to get too trite and inspirational here, and I m not going to wax poetically about how one person can change the entire world Chances are, most of us are going to go on to lead fairly unremarkable lives and fade away without too many people remember us Though we individuals outputinformation about ourselves than the entirety of the nineteenth century put out, so much of it these days is digital and therefore ephemeral But just because we skim along the surface instead of swimming in the deep doesn t mean we are unimportant, or that our actions have no effect on this world around us.The American Future A History left me with very mixed emotions On one hand, I had been treated to a greatest hits playlist of some of the United States most insular and bonehead moves On the other hand, as you can tell from the above paragraph, Schama manages to convey that contagious optimism emblematic of the 2008 American presidential election Schama starts by setting himself a goal of exploring where the United Sates might by going by looking to its past In this, I think he is successful That being said, I can t give this book high marks in every category Schama is very good at belabouring his points and overstaying his welcome We spend so much time on certain episodes, such as Montgomery Meigs I enjoyed it, but it was also a little exhausting Schama s use of detail is both a blessing and a curse.As a Canadian whose grasp of American history is probably rudimentary at best, I certainly found this book informative It was also helpful in ageneral sense, for it illuminates the sources of certain cultural habits Americans often express that can puzzle the rest of the world We learn about manifest destiny in school, but we don t necessarily understand its origins now I kind of do I recommend this book for non Americans who are trying to understand why some Americans think and act the way they do American friends, we know not all of you are crazy, and we re trying very, very hard to put up with those of you who are But some of us are running out of patience, and it s time you step up, mmkay Because the American future is coming, and I want it to be a good one


  3. Rob Shurmer Rob Shurmer says:

    Schama deftly plumbs the depths of America s internal contradictions, concluding that our hope, greatness, and indeed exceptionalism therein lie All American high school students should read Schama s section on religious toleration and the founding fathers Schama takes on and soundly thrashes the current evangelical assertion that the United States was established as a Christian nation he even produces an early treaty, ratified by Congress, that states bluntly as the United States is not in Schama deftly plumbs the depths of America s internal contradictions, concluding that our hope, greatness, and indeed exceptionalism therein lie All American high school students should read Schama s section on religious toleration and the founding fathers Schama takes on and soundly thrashes the current evangelical assertion that the United States was established as a Christian nation he even produces an early treaty, ratified by Congress, that states bluntly as the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion And anyone of German or Irish heritage who agrees with Lou Dobbs on immigration issues needs to read Schama s section on immigration titled What is American Even the anti slave abolitionists such as Beecher and Morse, it would appear, were not above burning a convent or two to keep the credulous and filthy potato eating papist hordes from violating the Protestant City on the hill Left unchecked, what did you get A whiskey soaked, priest governed, black hating, socially delinquent city swarm, numerous enough to impose their will at the polls Good bye liberty farewell America And the reparations minded folk stuck in the 60s should read about the anti Chinese pogrom in LA in 1871, long before there was a Watts or a South Central to go berserk over Rodney King s misfortune ALL who think that throughout it s history the USA has been pro Europe with regard to immigration will learn something here the venom with which most European immigrants were greeted is mostly lost in current debates about race, ethnicity, and toleration in the melting pot Despite all of the dissonance of racism and intolerance covered in his American story, though, Simon manages to drive home a clear and resonant note of hope that the American progressive experiment remains very much alive and even, dare I say, progressive in 2008 The glory of American life is its complexity, concludes Schama, and from the richness of that complexity come, always, rejuvenating alternatives Amen, brother


  4. Alan Alan says:

    Schama writes as if he invented English This is history as it once was Popular, interesting and well written It looks to the past to explain and illuminate the present Taking the 2008 election as turning point, Schama tells that story from the perspective of how the past influences the present He commingles race, immigration, war and the economy as they played out in 2008 and traces those threads back into the past showing that they are not new and fit into a particular historical patterns Schama writes as if he invented English This is history as it once was Popular, interesting and well written It looks to the past to explain and illuminate the present Taking the 2008 election as turning point, Schama tells that story from the perspective of how the past influences the present He commingles race, immigration, war and the economy as they played out in 2008 and traces those threads back into the past showing that they are not new and fit into a particular historical patterns Using key individuals from the past to tell his story of the American present Schama not only writes one of theinteresting non fiction books but one that illuminates the current political debate by showing whence it came.My favorite part of the book was his exegesis of Montgomery Meiggs, Quartermaster of the US Army, key engineer of Washington s water supply and construction of the Capital building and the man most responsible for the placement of Arlington National Cemetery on the ancestral lands of Robert E Lee s family


  5. Patricia Monger Patricia Monger says:

    This book was written in the midst of the 2008 presidential election, so when you read the preface you think, Hoo eee Was he ever wrong in being so optimistic But I am a fan of Schama s work, so I kept on It s worth it I suggest you skip the preface, start at Chapter 1, and then return to the preface at the end of the book By then, you ll be able to see that the USA has a habit of going off the rails it s not Trump, it s the people themselves But by the same token, because of that, you This book was written in the midst of the 2008 presidential election, so when you read the preface you think, Hoo eee Was he ever wrong in being so optimistic But I am a fan of Schama s work, so I kept on It s worth it I suggest you skip the preface, start at Chapter 1, and then return to the preface at the end of the book By then, you ll be able to see that the USA has a habit of going off the rails it s not Trump, it s the people themselves But by the same token, because of that, you may end up thinking that even if there s no reason to be optimistic, despair may be an overreaction too


  6. Joann Amidon Joann Amidon says:

    Masterfully Schama juxtaposes the election of 2008 with historical events of America The book is captivating, accessible, and one that everyone interested in history should read.


  7. Rob Rob says:

    In 2008, America stood on the cusp of a change which even just a few years earlier would have been unthinkable Barack Obama, a black American, had a realistic chance of being elected President of the United States His vision of change was providing an inspiring alternative both to a discredited Republican regime and Hillary Clinton s Democratic Party machine Establishment politics had failed the long years of easy credit and economic boom had come crashing to an end, whilst American troops In 2008, America stood on the cusp of a change which even just a few years earlier would have been unthinkable Barack Obama, a black American, had a realistic chance of being elected President of the United States His vision of change was providing an inspiring alternative both to a discredited Republican regime and Hillary Clinton s Democratic Party machine Establishment politics had failed the long years of easy credit and economic boom had come crashing to an end, whilst American troops struggled to make an impact against nebulous foes in Iraq and Afghanistan If ever there was a potential political watershed, this was it.Simon Schama s TV series and book were an attempt to take a long perspective on America s most pressing issues, mixing historical aper us with contemporary analysis to brilliant effect.When West Point Academy for officers was founded, the study of French was compulsory for the practical reason that many of the textbooks were written in French But the principles of mathematics and engineering that were instilled allowed the Army to play a major role in the Civil Engineering of the new nation They helped create, for instance, the lev es that protected New Orleans until contemporary negligence contributed to their breach in the wake of Hurricane Katrina Switch to the retired General who, when asked if the Army could have doneto fix the infrastructure of Iraq, said that that is not what the Army is for.The Union s success in the American Civil War was largely due to the success of West Point graduate Montgomery Meigs clear headed and incorruptible approach to logistical management Switch to Iraq, where Construction companies awarded no bid contracts had bungled the job after pocketing front loaded operational budgets No explicit contrast is made none is needed.For a country founded on immigration, America s attitude to new immigrants has often been ambiguous Discrimination against Chinese workers in the West is contrasted with American migrants to Mexico in what is now Texas The first part of the American history is the search for land, as settlers pushed further and further west, and the American army made gains to the South Treaties with American Indian tribes are torn up with impunity by Andrew Jackson, the hero of the Mexican war Rewind to Schama s meeting earlier in the book with Generals Freddy Valenzuela and Ricardo Sanchez, all American heroes in a Hispanic military caf in San Antonio, Texas.For the American history is a complex history, ebbing and flowing from highest ideals to naked greed and corruption What Schama manages to do is to select examples that not only encapsulate how America came to be what it is today, but also to underline its complexity He moves easily back and forward through the history of the Meigs family and the history of the nation, but eschews easy answers As the past four years have shown, the problems that contemporary America faces are too deep seated simply to be solved by well crafted words, but this book is a fine attempt to shed some understanding on its most intractable issues.Taken from my blog


  8. Brad Brad says:

    The premise of this book concerns the idea that we can only comprehend the American future by understanding the American past To accomplish this, Schama deals with four different aspects of American uniqueness that, contemporary Americans ignorant of history might seemingly ignore And to clarify the points he wants to make he weaves an absolutely beautiful narrative, capturing wonderful American figures long since lost in history s deep annals.First, Schama deals with war Given the fact that The premise of this book concerns the idea that we can only comprehend the American future by understanding the American past To accomplish this, Schama deals with four different aspects of American uniqueness that, contemporary Americans ignorant of history might seemingly ignore And to clarify the points he wants to make he weaves an absolutely beautiful narrative, capturing wonderful American figures long since lost in history s deep annals.First, Schama deals with war Given the fact that America is bogged down in 2 wars, one the result of falsification and disastrous imperialism, the other in my opinion an initially noble battle quickly losing that credibility, Schama illustrates important points in history that address judgments of right and sufficient reasons for war Here we are introduced to the delightful Montgomery Meigs, Quartermaster General in the Civil War, and his long family lineage from his Great grandfather, the wonderfully named, for wonderful reasons, Return Jonathan, to his Great great great nephew, the current retired General Meigs Their story is incredible Further, he introduces to the origins of West Point and the Hamiltonian Jeffersonian world views that preceded it We are introduced to disastrous mistakes made in the Philippines.Schama addresses the unique American balance between religion and tolerance in a current age where religious fundamentalism seems to have boomed to unprecedented levels And yet, here again, we see the origins of American fervor from the country s first settlers to the Second Great Awakening The arguments of Jefferson and Madison are especially refreshing here, as is the discussion on slavery The immigration debate comes into full view as Schama dissects our culturally inclusive history indeed the section dealing with the Chinese immigrants who constructed the trans continental railroad sound exactly like they came off current right wing talk radio And the concluding section on America s vast and precious natural resources is a must read for we Westerners who again, at least in my opinions of Utahans specifically have long since lost our respect for water.Schama has a tendency to get pretentious, even out pretentiousing someone as pretentious as me This gets old But the book concluding with Obama s recent inauguration breathed new welcome life towards my confidence in the 44th president, who has not yet lived up to my high, progressive standards Reading Schama, I m all thewilling to give him the benefit of the doubt because the one thing that I do know about Obama he knows history And that, really, is fundamental for our future


  9. Paul Paul says:

    There are geniuses among us No, probably not that guy next to you on the train They re difficult to spot, unless they reveal themselves in some way Fortunately, some of them do so by writing books Simon Schama is definitely one of them Schama s latest, American Future, is based on a BBC TV documentary series he hosted during last year s presidential campaign I m not sure which came first, book or TV series It doesn t matter The book is good genius good.This is not to say Schama is e There are geniuses among us No, probably not that guy next to you on the train They re difficult to spot, unless they reveal themselves in some way Fortunately, some of them do so by writing books Simon Schama is definitely one of them Schama s latest, American Future, is based on a BBC TV documentary series he hosted during last year s presidential campaign I m not sure which came first, book or TV series It doesn t matter The book is good genius good.This is not to say Schama is easy going You need to make time for his work Having virtually done my brain in while reading his entire History of Britain series, his French Revolution opus, Citizens, or hisrecent The Power of Art, I know he is not for everyone He is masterful at translating small details into larger truths You ll find yourself reading paragraphs over and over, until finally you realize Oh, that s what he means But it s all worth it Part of Schama s peculiar genius is for those little known stories from the attic of history Forgotten people ever hear of Return Jonathan Meigs yes, that s his real name who helped create the United States we know today Not surprisingly, Schama often uses historical reality to unravel common modern assumptions about the nature of government and its role American Future weaves these tales into a stop and start narrative of the 2008 presidential campaign His insights cast new light on where this country has been and where it might be headed In general, Schama feels pretty darn good about the American future And I m happy to take his word for it After all, he s the genius


  10. Hugh Ashton Hugh Ashton says:

    I like Simon Schama s work OK, I m biased, because we were at the same college , and I enjoyed reading this book Written in 2008, after Obama was sweeping the nation and seemingly ushering in a new age in American political life, it now makes chilling reading.The optimism inherent in Schama s tone of 2008 now appears to have been totally unjustified The racism, prejudice and intolerance that Schama chronicles as a thread running through the whole of American history and not a minor thread, e I like Simon Schama s work OK, I m biased, because we were at the same college , and I enjoyed reading this book Written in 2008, after Obama was sweeping the nation and seemingly ushering in a new age in American political life, it now makes chilling reading.The optimism inherent in Schama s tone of 2008 now appears to have been totally unjustified The racism, prejudice and intolerance that Schama chronicles as a thread running through the whole of American history and not a minor thread, either, but a major part of the fabric have come to the fore, in the GOP s determined and unreasoning opposition to Obama and all that he has proposed, the Tea Party, and most recently, the Trump eters all of whom have had their counterparts in an almost unbroken line of American political thought.He is at pains to point out many of the traits that make the USA great this is not an anti American book unless pointing out the truth is anti American , butTwo topics he doesn t touch on are the almost sexual obsession with guns of many Americans, and the unique in the Western democratic world fear of and distrust of government as opposed to private enterprise But for any American who wonders why the world does not universally love and trust America, or any non American who has their doubts about the land of the free , this history of hate and prejudice may be an eye opener


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The American Future: A History[EPUB] ✺ The American Future: A History ✽ Simon Schama – Polishdarling.co.uk In November the United States will elect a new President But the imminent collapse of twenty years of Republican conservativism means the country is already conducting an intense self examination abo In Novemberthe United Future: A PDF ´ States will elect a new President But the imminent collapse of twenty years of Republican conservativism means the country is already conducting an intense self examination about the trajectory of its history how it came The American Kindle - to find itself in multiple crises and how an America that began as the last, best hope of earth came to be so suspected and vilified around much of the world The American Future A History, written by an American Future: A eBook ☆ author who has spent half his life there, takes the long view of how the United States has come to this anguished moment of truth about its own identity as a nation and its place in the worldIn each of the chapters devoted to the most compelling issues facing Americans now the projection of power American war race, immigration and the problematic promise of e pluribus unum American skin the intensity of religious conviction in public life American fervour the mystique of American land and its battles with the imperatives of profit American Plenty Schama traces the deep history of the present crisisCumulatively the chapters build into a history of American exceptionalism the American difference that means so much to its people but which has led it into calamities as well as triumphs The American Future A History argues that if you want to know what is truly at stake, you need to absorb these stories and understand this history for understanding is the condition of hope.


About the Author: Simon Schama

Simon Schama was Future: A PDF ´ born in The son of a textile merchant with Lithuanian and Turkish grandparents, he spent his early years in Leigh on Sea in Essex When his parents moved to London he won a scholarship The American Kindle - to Haberdashers Aske s School where his two great loves were English and History Forced to choose between the two he opted to read history at Christ s College, Cambridge Here he was taught by Sir John Plumb whose American Future: A eBook ☆ other students Linda Colley, Roy Porter and John Brewer are now central to British historical thought It was Plumb s influence which instilled in him the importance of narrative and written style in order to gain an audience for history outside academia One of the hallmarks of Schama s work is his flair for description he gets arcane matters to walk, in fact dance, off the page according to fellow historian Peter Hennessy However, his approach is contentious and invites criticism of subjectivity and populism from academic circles Schama remained at Christ s for years after his degree, becoming a fellow and then director of Studies, before moving to Brasenose College Oxford While at Oxford he wrote Patriots and Liberators Revolution in the Netherlands , which won the Wolfson Literary Award, and Two Rothschilds and the Land of Israel At Oxford he met his wife, Ginny Papaioannou a geneticist from CaliforniaTired of the Oxford system he once described his experience as being like a gerbil on a treadmill and enticed by the freedom of US Academic life, he moved to America in , becoming Professor of History at Harvard Here he wrote The Embarrassment of Riches An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age , Citizens A Chronicle of the French Revolution and Dead Certainties Unwarranted Speculations an a unusual linking of the death of General Wolfe at Quebec in and the murder of a doctor, George Parkman, by a Harvard Professor in Citizens, which was written at lightening speed pages in only months, won the NCR Book Award However, Schama s emphasis on the terror and violence of the revolution and his argument, that from its beginning it was a sacrament of blood , ensured it has never found a publisher in France He is now professor in history and art history at Columbia where he has written Landscape and Memory which received the W H Smith Literary Award and Rembrandt s Eyes The latter is a controversial reassessment of the artist which attempts to reinstate the notion of Rembrandt the genius, aiming to invoke the atmosphere as well as the historical context In Schama s view, as he tells David D Arcy in Art Newspaper There are some passages of sublime reinvention for which history has absolutely no answers it seems to me pointless and trivial to pretend that it does Simon Schama has also worked for the BBC on a part series A History of Britain and has been an art critic and cultural essayist for The New Yorker and Talk magazine He lives in New York with his wife and their two children Chloe and Gabriel.



10 thoughts on “The American Future: A History

  1. Trevor Trevor says:

    This is such an interesting book I ve decided recently I need to learn a bitabout American history but know so little that I have been struggling with the who s who and then what to make of various players American history is much like America herself a bit like Norman Bates in Psycho, pleasant when you first meet him, but he can be a bit, well, psycho too America has the best of people and the worst of people Often these are one and the same person Jefferson, for example, is someon This is such an interesting book I ve decided recently I need to learn a bitabout American history but know so little that I have been struggling with the who s who and then what to make of various players American history is much like America herself a bit like Norman Bates in Psycho, pleasant when you first meet him, but he can be a bit, well, psycho too America has the best of people and the worst of people Often these are one and the same person Jefferson, for example, is someone I really do need to find outabout, and not just his slaves, but also his relationship with Native Americans, and as for Andrew Jackson, what an evil bastard he was imagine literally burning the treaties Washington had signed There are times when I regret being an atheist and so can have no hope that pricks like him won t get to suffer for the rest of eternity in hell fires.I hadn t realised that Schama had made a four part documentary in the lead up to the last US Presidential election I would have liked to have seen it However, from what I can gather this book seems quite different if not the least for being muchcomprehensive in that it doesn t even seem to follow the structure of the documentary If you were to ask me what this was about I would have to say America and her relationship with the peoples of rest of the world although, really, that is all those people who are not white, Anglo Saxon and Protestant, whether they live in the rest of the world or next door Schama captures the split personality duel personality of the US people beautifully a country that can proudly proclaim, send me your poor and huddled masses and yet have pogroms against the Chinese, that can fight a civil war to free slaves, but follow up with the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans, that can declare it to be self evident that all men are created equal while owning slaves The chapters in this book on the US involvement in the Philippines is extremely distressing and, worse still, terrifyingly reminiscent of US involvement in Iraq The descriptions of the tortures meted out to the niggers that is, local Filipinos particularly the unspeakably barbaric water cure almost defies belief But again, I must readMark Twain his attack on American Imperialism due to these atrocities and perversions of the American dream places him even further up my list of American heroes Perhaps the most interesting story in this book was that of the American military family, the Meigs I had heard the story of how Arlington Cemetery came to be built on the home of Robert E Lee It is hard to think of adirect statement of loathing than to turn someone s home into a cemetery how better to say, this thou have wrought than to bury the soldiers killed in the Civil War right up to the windows of the general fighting that war All of the Meigs discussed in this book, and their long involvement in American wars, were fascinating, but I think Monty Meigs remains one of the most fascinating of all in fact, both of the Monty Meigs Civil War and Vietnam War are incredibly interesting men.I think this was precisely the sort of history of America I needed to read It is a quirky history written by an outsider looking in America remains a paradox to me for what other country can inspire quite so much hope and at the same time quite so much fear and despair The chapter on Carter, Reagan and the energy crisis and the all too obvious fact that Americans simply don t want to hear we have reached peak oil or that it may be time to think about tomorrow, was particularly depressing The spoilt brat side of the American psyche worries me very much but it is important to remember that it is not just Americans who buy SUVs It beggars belief that anyone could think it a good idea to drive around in a lounge room when there is any chance at all that those warning about global warming might just be right even if the chance they are right was the most remote chance imaginable if only it was The idea that the world would move to heavier cars so as to burn our future faster just about proves we are a species that deserves to perish.This is a wonderful book, and one that should do much to remind you of the great evil that racism is in all its guises Well worth the read


  2. Kara Babcock Kara Babcock says:

    I wouldn t necessarily describe myself as anti American, but I will cop to having anti American sentiments I have plenty of American friends, but I chose to move to England before the United States and, to be perfectly honest, I don t think I could ever bring myself to live in the United States There are just some ideas so apparently entrenched in American society that seem so backward to me And I know my American friends understand a lot of it seems backward to them too It s something of a t I wouldn t necessarily describe myself as anti American, but I will cop to having anti American sentiments I have plenty of American friends, but I chose to move to England before the United States and, to be perfectly honest, I don t think I could ever bring myself to live in the United States There are just some ideas so apparently entrenched in American society that seem so backward to me And I know my American friends understand a lot of it seems backward to them too It s something of a trend these days to discuss the hijacking of American politics Corporations have hijacked politics ultra right wing evangelicals have hijacked politics Tea Party patriots have hijacked politics at this rate, if Bigfoot hasn t hijacked politics by December, I will be disappointed There is, of course, a great deal of truth in some of these perspectives, and these discourses are valuable At the same time, one should not neglect the fact that the United States has always been in a state of uneasy tension between religious freedoms and religious establishment, between liberal and conservative, between society and business So much of the hijacking happening today is not so much an aberration as it is the latest recurrence in a long line of such events, as Simon Schama attempts to demonstrate in The American Future A History.Here are some things I learned from The American Future A History Some of them are obvious, yes, and probably don t require a book to become evident But it s always good to be reminded.There were no good old days Well, maybe if you were a rich, white, European male But if you re a rich, white male today, wake up and stop complaining your days are still pretty good The idea that the United States of the past was somehow a golden land of opportunity and prosperity, and that it has since declined into its present state, is a myth Imperialism, racism, and colonialism have always been a part of the United States of America The religious persecution that so many of the original colonists fled in coming to the shores of the New World eventually caught up with them, and Catholics, Jews, and the apostate Protestant sect of the week were routinely barred from livelihoods and politics Let s not even get started about slavery.Despite the bad, we too often forget about the good In our rush to cringe at the past, sometimes it s easy to overlook the people who stood up against tyranny and oppression I m not talking about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and other revolutionaries or Founding Fathers I m talking about the people who, quietly or not, worked tirelessly on behalf of the disenfranchised, the minorities, every group who did not get a voice in the system From Return Jonathan Meigs to Fred Bee, there were numerous good people who deserved to be remembered for trying to stop oppression and atrocities, even if they were ultimately unsuccessful.Hero worship is for losers The way or at least this is how it seems from my perspective as an outsider Americans are taught to venerate the Founding Fathers and other such historical figures without much time spent oncritical perspectives really concerns me I understand that it s a big deal that these people helped liberate the colonies from British rule But they weren t gods they were ordinary, flawed individuals Jefferson had some good ideas He also owned slaves And, while his attitude towards the indigenous peoples of the Americas was not as antagonistic as Andrew Jackson s, it still rested upon the principles of Eurocentric, cultural assimilation And from what I read about the various textbook guidelines being pushed in certain states, I doubt these views are being explored And it s a shame, because if there s one thing studying any history, from the United States or elsewhere, can teach us, it s We can do so, so much better We ve got a long way to go In the two centuries since gaining independence, the United States has changed greatly but in some ways, it and the rest of the world continues to repeat the same old mistakes Claiming we are superior to the people of the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries, that we ve learned our lessons, is misguided at best and woefully delusional at worst It will be interesting to see what historians two hundred years hence write about our intolerance and indiscretions.But I m still an optimist Even if I would let myself, I can t bring myself to yield to despair and the cynical proposition that we have finally achieved that crucial intersection of environmental irresponsibility, cultural apathy, and anxious nationalism that will somehow doom us all History shows that humans are really, really good at screwing things up We re also really, really good at surviving our mistakes, in one form or another.And armed with the knowledge of andimportantly, the discussion sparked by history, we can do better Schama s history, like a lot of popular history books, tends to focus on episodic accounts of individuals contributions It s easier that way we like narratives and we like protagonists And while that doesn t always provide an holistic view of the era, it does recreate one salient feature individuals can make a difference I m trying not to get too trite and inspirational here, and I m not going to wax poetically about how one person can change the entire world Chances are, most of us are going to go on to lead fairly unremarkable lives and fade away without too many people remember us Though we individuals outputinformation about ourselves than the entirety of the nineteenth century put out, so much of it these days is digital and therefore ephemeral But just because we skim along the surface instead of swimming in the deep doesn t mean we are unimportant, or that our actions have no effect on this world around us.The American Future A History left me with very mixed emotions On one hand, I had been treated to a greatest hits playlist of some of the United States most insular and bonehead moves On the other hand, as you can tell from the above paragraph, Schama manages to convey that contagious optimism emblematic of the 2008 American presidential election Schama starts by setting himself a goal of exploring where the United Sates might by going by looking to its past In this, I think he is successful That being said, I can t give this book high marks in every category Schama is very good at belabouring his points and overstaying his welcome We spend so much time on certain episodes, such as Montgomery Meigs I enjoyed it, but it was also a little exhausting Schama s use of detail is both a blessing and a curse.As a Canadian whose grasp of American history is probably rudimentary at best, I certainly found this book informative It was also helpful in ageneral sense, for it illuminates the sources of certain cultural habits Americans often express that can puzzle the rest of the world We learn about manifest destiny in school, but we don t necessarily understand its origins now I kind of do I recommend this book for non Americans who are trying to understand why some Americans think and act the way they do American friends, we know not all of you are crazy, and we re trying very, very hard to put up with those of you who are But some of us are running out of patience, and it s time you step up, mmkay Because the American future is coming, and I want it to be a good one


  3. Rob Shurmer Rob Shurmer says:

    Schama deftly plumbs the depths of America s internal contradictions, concluding that our hope, greatness, and indeed exceptionalism therein lie All American high school students should read Schama s section on religious toleration and the founding fathers Schama takes on and soundly thrashes the current evangelical assertion that the United States was established as a Christian nation he even produces an early treaty, ratified by Congress, that states bluntly as the United States is not in Schama deftly plumbs the depths of America s internal contradictions, concluding that our hope, greatness, and indeed exceptionalism therein lie All American high school students should read Schama s section on religious toleration and the founding fathers Schama takes on and soundly thrashes the current evangelical assertion that the United States was established as a Christian nation he even produces an early treaty, ratified by Congress, that states bluntly as the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion And anyone of German or Irish heritage who agrees with Lou Dobbs on immigration issues needs to read Schama s section on immigration titled What is American Even the anti slave abolitionists such as Beecher and Morse, it would appear, were not above burning a convent or two to keep the credulous and filthy potato eating papist hordes from violating the Protestant City on the hill Left unchecked, what did you get A whiskey soaked, priest governed, black hating, socially delinquent city swarm, numerous enough to impose their will at the polls Good bye liberty farewell America And the reparations minded folk stuck in the 60s should read about the anti Chinese pogrom in LA in 1871, long before there was a Watts or a South Central to go berserk over Rodney King s misfortune ALL who think that throughout it s history the USA has been pro Europe with regard to immigration will learn something here the venom with which most European immigrants were greeted is mostly lost in current debates about race, ethnicity, and toleration in the melting pot Despite all of the dissonance of racism and intolerance covered in his American story, though, Simon manages to drive home a clear and resonant note of hope that the American progressive experiment remains very much alive and even, dare I say, progressive in 2008 The glory of American life is its complexity, concludes Schama, and from the richness of that complexity come, always, rejuvenating alternatives Amen, brother


  4. Alan Alan says:

    Schama writes as if he invented English This is history as it once was Popular, interesting and well written It looks to the past to explain and illuminate the present Taking the 2008 election as turning point, Schama tells that story from the perspective of how the past influences the present He commingles race, immigration, war and the economy as they played out in 2008 and traces those threads back into the past showing that they are not new and fit into a particular historical patterns Schama writes as if he invented English This is history as it once was Popular, interesting and well written It looks to the past to explain and illuminate the present Taking the 2008 election as turning point, Schama tells that story from the perspective of how the past influences the present He commingles race, immigration, war and the economy as they played out in 2008 and traces those threads back into the past showing that they are not new and fit into a particular historical patterns Using key individuals from the past to tell his story of the American present Schama not only writes one of theinteresting non fiction books but one that illuminates the current political debate by showing whence it came.My favorite part of the book was his exegesis of Montgomery Meiggs, Quartermaster of the US Army, key engineer of Washington s water supply and construction of the Capital building and the man most responsible for the placement of Arlington National Cemetery on the ancestral lands of Robert E Lee s family


  5. Patricia Monger Patricia Monger says:

    This book was written in the midst of the 2008 presidential election, so when you read the preface you think, Hoo eee Was he ever wrong in being so optimistic But I am a fan of Schama s work, so I kept on It s worth it I suggest you skip the preface, start at Chapter 1, and then return to the preface at the end of the book By then, you ll be able to see that the USA has a habit of going off the rails it s not Trump, it s the people themselves But by the same token, because of that, you This book was written in the midst of the 2008 presidential election, so when you read the preface you think, Hoo eee Was he ever wrong in being so optimistic But I am a fan of Schama s work, so I kept on It s worth it I suggest you skip the preface, start at Chapter 1, and then return to the preface at the end of the book By then, you ll be able to see that the USA has a habit of going off the rails it s not Trump, it s the people themselves But by the same token, because of that, you may end up thinking that even if there s no reason to be optimistic, despair may be an overreaction too


  6. Joann Amidon Joann Amidon says:

    Masterfully Schama juxtaposes the election of 2008 with historical events of America The book is captivating, accessible, and one that everyone interested in history should read.


  7. Rob Rob says:

    In 2008, America stood on the cusp of a change which even just a few years earlier would have been unthinkable Barack Obama, a black American, had a realistic chance of being elected President of the United States His vision of change was providing an inspiring alternative both to a discredited Republican regime and Hillary Clinton s Democratic Party machine Establishment politics had failed the long years of easy credit and economic boom had come crashing to an end, whilst American troops In 2008, America stood on the cusp of a change which even just a few years earlier would have been unthinkable Barack Obama, a black American, had a realistic chance of being elected President of the United States His vision of change was providing an inspiring alternative both to a discredited Republican regime and Hillary Clinton s Democratic Party machine Establishment politics had failed the long years of easy credit and economic boom had come crashing to an end, whilst American troops struggled to make an impact against nebulous foes in Iraq and Afghanistan If ever there was a potential political watershed, this was it.Simon Schama s TV series and book were an attempt to take a long perspective on America s most pressing issues, mixing historical aper us with contemporary analysis to brilliant effect.When West Point Academy for officers was founded, the study of French was compulsory for the practical reason that many of the textbooks were written in French But the principles of mathematics and engineering that were instilled allowed the Army to play a major role in the Civil Engineering of the new nation They helped create, for instance, the lev es that protected New Orleans until contemporary negligence contributed to their breach in the wake of Hurricane Katrina Switch to the retired General who, when asked if the Army could have doneto fix the infrastructure of Iraq, said that that is not what the Army is for.The Union s success in the American Civil War was largely due to the success of West Point graduate Montgomery Meigs clear headed and incorruptible approach to logistical management Switch to Iraq, where Construction companies awarded no bid contracts had bungled the job after pocketing front loaded operational budgets No explicit contrast is made none is needed.For a country founded on immigration, America s attitude to new immigrants has often been ambiguous Discrimination against Chinese workers in the West is contrasted with American migrants to Mexico in what is now Texas The first part of the American history is the search for land, as settlers pushed further and further west, and the American army made gains to the South Treaties with American Indian tribes are torn up with impunity by Andrew Jackson, the hero of the Mexican war Rewind to Schama s meeting earlier in the book with Generals Freddy Valenzuela and Ricardo Sanchez, all American heroes in a Hispanic military caf in San Antonio, Texas.For the American history is a complex history, ebbing and flowing from highest ideals to naked greed and corruption What Schama manages to do is to select examples that not only encapsulate how America came to be what it is today, but also to underline its complexity He moves easily back and forward through the history of the Meigs family and the history of the nation, but eschews easy answers As the past four years have shown, the problems that contemporary America faces are too deep seated simply to be solved by well crafted words, but this book is a fine attempt to shed some understanding on its most intractable issues.Taken from my blog


  8. Brad Brad says:

    The premise of this book concerns the idea that we can only comprehend the American future by understanding the American past To accomplish this, Schama deals with four different aspects of American uniqueness that, contemporary Americans ignorant of history might seemingly ignore And to clarify the points he wants to make he weaves an absolutely beautiful narrative, capturing wonderful American figures long since lost in history s deep annals.First, Schama deals with war Given the fact that The premise of this book concerns the idea that we can only comprehend the American future by understanding the American past To accomplish this, Schama deals with four different aspects of American uniqueness that, contemporary Americans ignorant of history might seemingly ignore And to clarify the points he wants to make he weaves an absolutely beautiful narrative, capturing wonderful American figures long since lost in history s deep annals.First, Schama deals with war Given the fact that America is bogged down in 2 wars, one the result of falsification and disastrous imperialism, the other in my opinion an initially noble battle quickly losing that credibility, Schama illustrates important points in history that address judgments of right and sufficient reasons for war Here we are introduced to the delightful Montgomery Meigs, Quartermaster General in the Civil War, and his long family lineage from his Great grandfather, the wonderfully named, for wonderful reasons, Return Jonathan, to his Great great great nephew, the current retired General Meigs Their story is incredible Further, he introduces to the origins of West Point and the Hamiltonian Jeffersonian world views that preceded it We are introduced to disastrous mistakes made in the Philippines.Schama addresses the unique American balance between religion and tolerance in a current age where religious fundamentalism seems to have boomed to unprecedented levels And yet, here again, we see the origins of American fervor from the country s first settlers to the Second Great Awakening The arguments of Jefferson and Madison are especially refreshing here, as is the discussion on slavery The immigration debate comes into full view as Schama dissects our culturally inclusive history indeed the section dealing with the Chinese immigrants who constructed the trans continental railroad sound exactly like they came off current right wing talk radio And the concluding section on America s vast and precious natural resources is a must read for we Westerners who again, at least in my opinions of Utahans specifically have long since lost our respect for water.Schama has a tendency to get pretentious, even out pretentiousing someone as pretentious as me This gets old But the book concluding with Obama s recent inauguration breathed new welcome life towards my confidence in the 44th president, who has not yet lived up to my high, progressive standards Reading Schama, I m all thewilling to give him the benefit of the doubt because the one thing that I do know about Obama he knows history And that, really, is fundamental for our future


  9. Paul Paul says:

    There are geniuses among us No, probably not that guy next to you on the train They re difficult to spot, unless they reveal themselves in some way Fortunately, some of them do so by writing books Simon Schama is definitely one of them Schama s latest, American Future, is based on a BBC TV documentary series he hosted during last year s presidential campaign I m not sure which came first, book or TV series It doesn t matter The book is good genius good.This is not to say Schama is e There are geniuses among us No, probably not that guy next to you on the train They re difficult to spot, unless they reveal themselves in some way Fortunately, some of them do so by writing books Simon Schama is definitely one of them Schama s latest, American Future, is based on a BBC TV documentary series he hosted during last year s presidential campaign I m not sure which came first, book or TV series It doesn t matter The book is good genius good.This is not to say Schama is easy going You need to make time for his work Having virtually done my brain in while reading his entire History of Britain series, his French Revolution opus, Citizens, or hisrecent The Power of Art, I know he is not for everyone He is masterful at translating small details into larger truths You ll find yourself reading paragraphs over and over, until finally you realize Oh, that s what he means But it s all worth it Part of Schama s peculiar genius is for those little known stories from the attic of history Forgotten people ever hear of Return Jonathan Meigs yes, that s his real name who helped create the United States we know today Not surprisingly, Schama often uses historical reality to unravel common modern assumptions about the nature of government and its role American Future weaves these tales into a stop and start narrative of the 2008 presidential campaign His insights cast new light on where this country has been and where it might be headed In general, Schama feels pretty darn good about the American future And I m happy to take his word for it After all, he s the genius


  10. Hugh Ashton Hugh Ashton says:

    I like Simon Schama s work OK, I m biased, because we were at the same college , and I enjoyed reading this book Written in 2008, after Obama was sweeping the nation and seemingly ushering in a new age in American political life, it now makes chilling reading.The optimism inherent in Schama s tone of 2008 now appears to have been totally unjustified The racism, prejudice and intolerance that Schama chronicles as a thread running through the whole of American history and not a minor thread, e I like Simon Schama s work OK, I m biased, because we were at the same college , and I enjoyed reading this book Written in 2008, after Obama was sweeping the nation and seemingly ushering in a new age in American political life, it now makes chilling reading.The optimism inherent in Schama s tone of 2008 now appears to have been totally unjustified The racism, prejudice and intolerance that Schama chronicles as a thread running through the whole of American history and not a minor thread, either, but a major part of the fabric have come to the fore, in the GOP s determined and unreasoning opposition to Obama and all that he has proposed, the Tea Party, and most recently, the Trump eters all of whom have had their counterparts in an almost unbroken line of American political thought.He is at pains to point out many of the traits that make the USA great this is not an anti American book unless pointing out the truth is anti American , butTwo topics he doesn t touch on are the almost sexual obsession with guns of many Americans, and the unique in the Western democratic world fear of and distrust of government as opposed to private enterprise But for any American who wonders why the world does not universally love and trust America, or any non American who has their doubts about the land of the free , this history of hate and prejudice may be an eye opener


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