Behold, America: The Entangled History of

Behold, America: The Entangled History of "America First" and "the American Dream"

by Sarah Churchwell


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A Smithsonian Magazine Best History Book of 2018

The unknown history of two ideas crucial to the struggle over what America stands for

In Behold, America, Sarah Churchwell offers a surprising account of twentieth-century Americans' fierce battle for the nation's soul. It follows the stories of two phrases—the "American dream" and "America First"—that once embodied opposing visions for America.

Starting as a Republican motto before becoming a hugely influential isolationist slogan during World War I, America First was always closely linked with authoritarianism and white supremacy. The American dream, meanwhile, initially represented a broad vision of democratic and economic equality. Churchwell traces these notions through the 1920s boom, the Depression, and the rise of fascism at home and abroad, laying bare the persistent appeal of demagoguery in America and showing us how it was resisted. At a time when many ask what America's future holds, Behold, America is a revelatory, unvarnished portrait of where we have been.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781541673403
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 10/09/2018
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 414,587
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Sarah Churchwell is professor of American literature and public understanding of the humanities at the University of London. The author and editor of several previous books, including the acclaimed Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of the Great Gatsby, she is a native of Chicago, now living in London.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Prologue: First, America First 13

Part 1 1900-1920

1 The American Dream 1900-1916: The Spirit of American Dreams 21

2 America First 1900-1916: Pure Americanism Against the Universe 39

3 The American Dream 1917-1920: What Do You Call That But Socialism? 63

4 America First 1917-1920: We Have Emerged from Dreamland 71

Part 2 1920-1930

5 The American Dream 1921-1923: Salesmen of Prosperity 93

6 America First 1920-1923: The Simplicity of Government 105

7 The American Dream 1924-1929: A Willingness of the Heart 129

8 America First 1923-1929: A Super Patriot, Patriot 139

Part 3 1930-1940

9 The American Dream 1930-1934: Das Dollarland 159

10 America First 1930-1934: The Official Recognition of Reality 173

11 The American Dream 1934-1939: The Pageant of History 187

12 America First 1935-1939: It Can Happen Here 213

13 America First and the American Dream 1939-1941: Americans! Wake Up! 241

Epilogue 1945-2017: Still America Firsting 267

Coda 285

Acknowledgements 291

Notes 295

Selected Bibliography 321

Index 327

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