Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2018

Department 1

Civil War Era Studies

Department 2



The Oxford history of the United States may be the most prestigious series of American history survey volumes in print. Originally launched under the aegis of C. Vann Woodward and Richard Hofstadter, it embraces at least three Pulitzer Prize-winners—James M. McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (1988), David M. Kennedy’s Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929–1945 (1999), and Daniel Walker Howe’s What Hath God Wrought? The Transformation of America, 1815–1848 (2007)—plus two other Pulitzer nominations and a Bancroft Prize in 1997 for James Patterson’s Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945–1974.

There have been some misfires. Charles Grier Sellers’ Jacksonian America, 1815–1846 (1991) was so unabashed in its Marxist blatherskite that it was withdrawn from the series and published as a separate volume. H.W. Brands’s account of the Gilded Age, Leviathan: America Comes of Age, 1865–1900 (2007), was yanked at the last minute, too, without comment from Oxford—but not without suggestions that Brands was too complimentary to industrial capitalism. (Oxford published it anyway, as a stand-alone.) Benjamin Schwarz, then the Atlantic’s literary and national editor, gave the series the back of his hand in 2006, dismissing all but the volumes by Robert Middlekauff (on the Revolution) and McPherson as “bloated and intellectually flabby,” lacking “intellectual refinement, analytical sharpness, and stylistic verve.” [excerpt]


Review of Richard White's The Republic For Which It Stands.


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