The Landmark History of the American People is a chronological study of the growth and development of the United States of America from its earliest fragile settlements through the latter part of the twentieth century. Profusely illustrated with contemporary drawings, paintings, and photographs, it follows the major development of the nation as it evolved from a scattering of primarily English colonies along the Atlantic coastline to the major world power that largely determined the shape and fate of modern world history. Daniel J. Boorstin’s emphasis is on the political and social culture of a nation that believed, from even before its formal beginning, in the independence and freedom of the individual and the power of democracy.
Boorstin’s controlling metaphor is that the United States is a collection of peoples who have learned, over the years and through a series of dramatic and traumatic events, to think as one people—in other words, to become a nation with a core basis of shared national beliefs and values that transcend a wide variety of backgrounds. The subdivisions in the first volume of this two-volume set illustrate this approach clearly: From “An Assortment of Plantations,” the work moves to “Thirteen States Are Born,” then changes to “American Ways of Growing,” advances to “Thinking Like Americans,” and ends with “The Rocky Road to Union.” In this fashion, Boorstin traces the development of the American national consciousness from the Colonial period, when settlers considered themselves merely transplanted Englishmen and Englishwomen, to...
(The entire section is 650 words.)