America, Empire of Liberty: A New History by David Reynolds - review by Raymond Seitz

Raymond Seitz

E Pluribus Unum

America, Empire of Liberty: A New History


Allen Lane/The Penguin Press 671pp £30

Dave Barry, the syndicated columnist for the Miami Herald, once observed that the authors of American history are nowadays compelled occasionally to throw in the sentence, ‘meanwhile, women and minorities were making great strides.’ Multiculturalism is the grand premise of the modern American story, and while this salient fact hardly deserves the excesses of political correctness which so often mar its treatment, it does mean that historians frequently find themselves writing parallel histories. This happened to blacks. That happened to Native Americans. Such compartmentalisation can often seem disjointed, but one thing is true: the whites-only history of the United States, on which, until the 1960s, generations of Americans were raised, is gone forever. In fact, according to the US Census Bureau, American whites will themselves be a minority by 2050. 

From this perspective, the election of Barack Obama is indeed a watershed, or at least a symbolic confluence of separate American histories. And the powerful political roles of both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin in the recent election also establish a historical landmark. In a year-end poll, three

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