Mad as Hell
The Crisis of the 1970s and the Rise of the Populist Right
By Dominic Sandbrook
Knopf, Hardcover, 9781400042623, 528pp.
Publication Date: February 15, 2011
List Price: $35.00*
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“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” The words of Howard Beale, the fictional anchorman in the 1970s hit film Network, struck a chord with a generation of Americans. From the disgrace of Watergate to the humiliation of the Iran hostage crisis, the American Dream seemed to be falling apart.
In this magisterial new history, Dominic Sandbrook re-creates the schizophrenic atmosphere of the 1970s, the world of Henry Kissinger and Edward Kennedy, Anita Bryant and Jerry Falwell, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Landry. He takes us back to an age when feminists were on the march and the Communists seemed to be winning the Cold War, but also when a new kind of right-wing populism was transforming American politics from the ground up. Those years gave us organic food, disco music, gas lines, and gay rights—but they also gave us Proposition 13, the neoconservative movement, and the rise of Ronald Reagan.
From the killing fields of Vietnam to the mean streets of Manhattan, this is a richly compelling picture of the turbulent age in which our modern-day populist politics was born. For those who remember the days when you could buy a new Ford Mustang II but had to wait hours to fill the tank, this could hardly be a more vivid book. And for those born later, it is the perfect guide to a tortured landscape that shaped our present, from the financial boardroom to the suburban bedroom: the extraordinary world of 1970s America.
Dominic Sandbrook was educated at Oxford, St. Andrews, and Cambridge. He taught American history at the University of Sheffield and is a former senior fellow at the Rothermere American Institute, Oxford. Sandbrook is the author of Eugene McCarthy: The Rise and Fall of Postwar American Liberalism, as well as three best-selling books on modern British history, Never Had It So Good, White Heat, and State of Emergency. He is also a journalist and critic, writing regularly for the London Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, and The Sunday Times, and a columnist for the New Statesman and BBC History Magazine.
“As historians go, [Sandbrook] is a Hugh Grant-level charmer.. . . Mad as Hell is frisky and intelligent; it’s among the most readable histories of the 1970s I’ve come across.”
—Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“Mad as Hell is an entertaining yet substantial book about a wince-inducing era. When it comes to the Seventies, Sandbrook knows the way we were, even if we wish we hadn’t been.”
—Chris Tucker, Dallas Morning News
“A terrific read . . . Sandbrook brings the 1970s back to vivid life in Mad as Hell, his entertaining, opinionated take on the politics, economics, and cultural signifiers of a decade he views as the incubator of today’s right wing . . . Packed with anecdote and insight.”
—Carlo Wolff, Christian Science Monitor
“First-rate . . . [Sandbrook] is able to view history panoramically, almost as a living, breathing organism, by collecting and effectively using vast numbers of on-the-ground anecdotes. When it comes time for a future Edward Gibbon to explore the decline and fall of the American Republic, it is quite possible that he or she will zero in on the cultural trends and economic upheavals of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. If that is the case, Mad as Hell will be there as a guiding light.”
—Sasha Abramsky, Columbia Journalism Review
“A shrewd, sparkling politico-cultural history of post-Watergate America . . . [Sandbrook’s] subtle, well-written narrative of wrathful little guys confronting a faltering establishment illuminates a crucial aspect of a time much like our own.”
“Starting with Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974, all the touchstones of the period are detailed . . . Sandbrook lays out just how this discontent found its expression in the emergence of Ronald Reagan and the Republican Right . . . Readers will be rewarded.”
—Alan Moores, Booklist