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Analysis of Eric Foners Give Me Liberty An American History: Volume 2 - Essay Example

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Eric Foner’s book, Give Me Liberty! An American History: Volume 2,1 is one of the best books I have ever been assigned as a text in my study of history. It covers a vast area of American History, beginning with the post-Civil War Reconstruction in 1865, and concluding with the invasion of Iraq in 2006…
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Analysis of Eric Foners Give Me Liberty An American History: Volume 2
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The very concept of writing an academic text of history from the perspective of freedom is debatable. After all, objectively speaking, history is the study of past events. Foner’s emphasis on the concept of freedom seems more philosophical than historical: he skims over actual events to devote more pages to the discussions of how those events affected the freedom of African Americans, women, minorities, etc. An example of this slant is Foner’s treatment of the First World War: his account of the conflict is restricted to a sparse four pages (724-728), while his analysis of ‘The War at Home,’ covers a lengthy twenty-six pages (729-755).

Each of these four parts is further broken down into twenty-eight chapters, with the subjects arranged in several, clear-cut, sub-sections. This facilitates easy reading and convenience in referencing. This is also necessary in a voluminous book in which each chapter extends to over eighty pages. The focus questions given at the beginning of each chapter serve the dual purpose of alerting the reader to the most important aspects of the material to come, and giving an advance gist of the chapter. In the same way, the chapter reviews, with review questions, review tables, and key terms, make recapitulation of what has been studied an easy task. This systematic organization of the book makes for easy study, particularly from the perspective of class tests and quizzes. The depth of research and knowledge which have gone into the writing of this book is evident in every page. Of course, Foner has formidable credentials as one of the most eminent American historians.  He is the DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University, the author of a prodigious number of articles and books, and the winner of the Bancroft and Pulitzer prizes, among others. His erudition shows in the wealth of material he presents in Give Me Liberty! But, even more than Foner’s erudition, it is his decades of teaching experience which shines through every page of the book. Eric Foner is a winner of the Great Teacher Award from the Society of Columbia Graduates (1991), and the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching from Columbia University (2006)2. Give Me Liberty! is not confined to pages of plain text, but incorporates every instructional device known to stimulate curiosity, and hold the student’s interest. The book has illustrations (usually more than one!) on every page. These range from ordinary, practical graphs and tables, to such gems as the cover of the Sears, Roebuck and co. 1897 catalogue.3 There is a wealth of eye-catching cartoons from newspapers and magazines, which illustrate the popular sentiment of the times more eloquently than any text could: two examples are the anti-radical sentiment expressed by the 1880’s cartoon of a caterpillar,4 and the more contemporary cartoon on Bill Clinton’s survival tactics.5 The numerous photographs make for fascinating viewing, especially the sepia photographs from the 1800’s, which illustrat the early chapters. There are paintings, posters and advertisement, conveying a vivid ‘feel’ of the particular period to which they belong – such as Tom Watson on the cover of an 1892 ‘campaign book.’6 The informative value of Give Me Liberty! is further enhanced by the inclusion of the ‘Voices of Freedom’ section, which features legal documents, articles from newspapers and magazines, excerpts from books, court rulings and speeches, pertaining to each chapter. The appendix at the end of the book has an additional collection of documents and speeches, ranging from the Declaration of Independence to Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream,’ and Presidential Inaugural Addresses. An exhaustive list of constitutional legislation is also given, in order to elaborate on amendments, and Supreme Court decisions, mentioned in the text. All this makes Give Me Liberty! an absolutely comprehensive account of ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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