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This volume begins in a period in which bitterness and revenge vied with hope and a new ideal of liberty. The Reconstruction imposed by the North upon the South is examined by the author from all points of view. He traces the steps by which the economy recovered and by which the USA emerged as the world's industrial giant. Factors as various as the anarchy of the Wild West and the gold rush, the completion of the railroad system, the maturing of the great centers of learning, the numerous manifestations of opportunity and strength led to the formation of a distinct culture and to a new consciousness of nationhood. They also gave birth, Professor Wright argues, to the American Dream, an elusive idea of such force that it informed much of the twentieth century in the USA and, as American power became pre-eminent, influenced the world at large. After describing the key American involvement in the European, Pacific and Asian wars, and the development of culture, politics, and ideology at home, the author examines the dissipation of that dream in the disillusion and corruption of the Reagan years. Ironically, this was the time when the USA emerged as the world's sole super-power.
And the country remained - as it had been for almost all its history - the ideal destination for the poor and downtrodden of the world, a beacon of opportunity, hope and, above all, of liberty.
Esmond Wright is a graduate of the Universities of Durham in England and of Virginia in the United States (where in 1940 he received his degree from Franklin D Roosevelt). After service in the British Eighth Army in the Second World War, he pursued an academic career, teaching at the Universities of Glasgow, London, Yale, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Ohio State. From 1970 to 1983 he was director of the Institute of US Studies at the University of London.