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The Contours of American History

af William Appleman Williams

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William Appleman Williams was one of America's greatest critics of US imperialism. The Contours of American History, first published in 1961, reached back to seventeenth-century British history to argue that the relationship between liberalism and empire was in effect a grand compromise, with expansion abroad containing class and race tensions at home. Coming as it did before the political explosions of the 1960s, Williams's message was a deeply heretical one, and yet the Modern Library ultimately chose Contours as one of the best 100 nonfiction books of the 20th Century.… (mere)

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If you want history from an anti-individualist slant this is the book for you. While criticizing Locke and Smith for their "laissez-faire" outlook he praises the limits they place on the economy. He is basically a mercantilist at heart and this comes through most clearly when he praises Keynes and the "Progressive Movement" for their adherence to the mercantilist tradition.(p446) He concludes his history (ending as the sixties began) with praise for the "socialist reassertion of the . . . ancient ideal of a Christian Commonwealth (as) a viable utopia".(p487) With that and a dollop of praise for Eugene V. Debs he, mercifully, closes the book on his progressive take on American history. ( )
  jwhenderson | May 20, 2010 |
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William Appleman Williamsprimær forfatteralle udgaverberegnet
Grandin, GregIntroduktionmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
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One may easily see history as only a succession of chances or conjunctures -- but, if so, there is nothing to study, there are no correlations to be made between events, and in fact there is only a rope of sand, a series of non sequiturs which one can do nothing but narrate...

But it is the optical illusion or the occupational disease of the research student to imagine that only the details matter, and that the details are all of equal value -- that the statesman has no cohesive purpose but is merely a bundle of contradictions -- and that everything is under the rule of chance, under the play of absurdly little chances -- history reducing itself at the finish to an irony of circumstance.


Herbert Butterfiled, 1959
I have always thought that the basic division among human beings is between those preoccupied with the question "How" and those preoccupied with the question "Why." This is a great "How" age. But "Why" questions remain unanswered, and will doubtless in due course again claim attention.

Malcolm Muggeridge, 1958
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In memory of my father, and for my mother;

parents who gave me by example the wisdom and

the life inherent in both meanings

of Napoleon's neglected axiom:

You commit yourself, and then -- you see.
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Anthony Ashley Cooper, more usually known as Lord Ashley or the first Earl of Shaftesbury, was a man of the world in an age when the world had become immense.
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William Appleman Williams was one of America's greatest critics of US imperialism. The Contours of American History, first published in 1961, reached back to seventeenth-century British history to argue that the relationship between liberalism and empire was in effect a grand compromise, with expansion abroad containing class and race tensions at home. Coming as it did before the political explosions of the 1960s, Williams's message was a deeply heretical one, and yet the Modern Library ultimately chose Contours as one of the best 100 nonfiction books of the 20th Century.

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