The Short American Century

The Short American Century Cover

The Short American Century

A Postmortem

By Andrew J. Bacevich (Editor); David M. Kennedy (Contribution by); Emily S. Rosenberg (Contribution by)

Harvard University Press, Hardcover, 9780674064454, 287pp.

Publication Date: March 19, 2012


Writing in "Life" magazine in February 1941, Henry Luce memorably announced the arrival of The American Century. The phrase caught on, as did the belief that America's moment was at hand. Yet as Andrew J. Bacevich makes clear, that century has now ended, the victim of strategic miscalculation, military misadventures, and economic decline. To take stock of the short American Century and place it in historical perspective, Bacevich has assembled a richly provocative range of perspectives.

What did this age of reputed American preeminence signify? What caused its premature demise? What legacy remains in its wake? Distinguished historians Jeffry Frieden, Akira Iriye, David Kennedy, Walter LaFeber, Jackson Lears, Eugene McCarraher, Emily Rosenberg, and Nikhil Pal Singh offer illuminating answers to these questions. Achievement and failure, wisdom and folly, calculation and confusion all make their appearance in essays that touch on topics as varied as internationalism and empire, race and religion, consumerism and globalization.

As the United States grapples with protracted wars, daunting economic uncertainty, and pressing questions about exactly what role it should play in a rapidly changing world, understanding where the nation has been and how it got where it is today is critical. What did the forging of the American Century with its considerable achievements but also its ample disappointments and missed opportunities ultimately yield? That is the question this important volume answers.

About the Author
Andrew J. Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University, served for twenty-three years as an officer in the U.S. Army. He is the author of "Washington Rules", "The Limits of Power", and "The New American Militarism", among other books. His writing has appeared in "Foreign Affairs", "The Atlantic Monthly", "Harper s", "The Nation", "The New York Times", "The Washington Post", and "The Wall Street Journal".

David M. Kennedy received his Ph.D. from Yale University. He is the Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History Emeritus and co-director of The Bill Lane Center for the Study of the North American West at Stanford University. His first book, BIRTH CONTROL IN AMERICA: THE CAREER OF MARGARET SANGER, was honored with both the Bancroft Prize and the John Gilmary Shea Prize. He has won numerous teaching awards at Stanford, where he teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses in American political, diplomatic, intellectual, and social history, and in American literature. Dr. Kennedy published a volume in the OXFORD HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, FREEDOM FROM FEAR: THE AMERICAN PEOPLE IN DEPRESSION AND WAR, 1929--1945, for which he was honored with the 2000 Pulitzer Prize. He is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Philosophical Society, and he served from 2002--2011 on the board of the Pulitzer Prizes.

Emily Rosenberg specializes in U.S. foreign relations in the twentieth century and is the author of SPREADING THE AMERICAN DREAM: AMERICAN ECONOMIC AND CULTURAL EXPANSION, 1890-1945 (1982); FINANCIAL MISSIONARIES TO THE WORLD: THE POLITICS AND CULTURE OF DOLLAR DIPLOMACY (1999), which won the Ferrell Book Award; A DATE WHICH WILL LIVE: PEARL HARBOR IN AMERICAN MEMORY (2004); and TRANSNATIONAL CURRENTS IN A SHRINKING WORLD, 1870-1945 (2014). Her other publications include (with Norman L. Rosenberg) IN OUR TIMES: AMERICA SINCE 1945, Seventh Edition (2003), and numerous articles dealing with foreign relations in the context of international finance, American culture, and gender ideology. She has served on the board of the Organization of American Historians, on the board of editors of the American Historical Review, and as president of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.