Joshua Freeman’s American Empire is a history in the tradition of great single-volume accounts of big topics. Freeman has achieved this concision by anchoring his narrative around the big ideas of recent American history – the military-industrial complex, the civil rights movement, and Reaganism – instead of simply chronicling the important dates of post-war America. He examines the rise of these ideas in American society and deftly shows how the debates around them drove social change to create the America of today. American Empire is the projected final volume of a five part Penguin History of the United States, with volume one already in print. Under its now defunct Pelican imprint, Penguin has a venerable tradition of publishing general histories by experts in the field, and American Empire is a happy return to this endeavour. It sits comfortably in that sometimes difficult space between popular and academic writing. Freeman’s research and analysis is rigorous, but his storytelling moves the book along and always presents the reader with competing interpretations of America’s changes in the last half-century. American Empire is a worthy candidate to become a standard text on the topic.
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