America Divided

The Civil War of the 1960s

by Maurice Isserman, Michael Kazin

In America Divided, Maurice Isserman and Michael Kazin provide the definitive history of the 1960s, in a book that tells a compelling tale filled with fresh and persuasive insights.Ranging from the 1950s right up to the debacle of Watergate, Isserman (a noted historian of the Left) and Kazin (a leading specialist in populist movements) not only recount the public and private actions of the era's many powerful political figures, but also shed light on the social, cultural, and grassroots political movements of the decade. Indeed, readers will find a seamless narrative that integrates such events as the Cuban Missile Crisis and Operation Rolling Thunder with the rise of Motown and Bob Dylan, and that blends the impact of Betty Friedan, Martin Luther King, and George Wallace with the role played by organizations ranging from the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee to the Campus Crusade for Christ. The authors' broad ranging approach offers us the most sophisticated understanding to date of the interaction between key developments of the decade, such as the Vietnam War, the rise and fall of the Great Society, and the conservative revival. And they break new ground in their careful attention to every aspect of the political and cultural spectrum, depicting the 1960s as a decade of right-wing resurgence as much as radical triumph, of Protestant apocalyptic revivalism as much as Roman Catholic liberalism and rising alternative religions.Never before have all sides of the many political, social, and cultural conflicts been so well defined, discussed, and analyzed--all in a swiftly moving narrative. With America Divided, the struggles of the Sixties--and their legacy--are finally clear.

  • Oxford University Press; November 1999
  • ISBN: 9780198025221
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF format
  • Title: America Divided
  • Author: Maurice Isserman; Michael Kazin
  • Imprint: Oxford University Press

In The Press

"This is the finest and most comprehensive history of `The Sixties' ever written. Professors Isserman and Kazin skillfully combine insightful analysis and captivating narrative to demonstrate how and why that political and cultural civil war haunts us yet. Their book is therefore more than another history: it is an act of engaged citizenship."--Nelson Lichtenstein, University of Virginia
"America Divided is a riveting read, brimming with lively anecdotes, original insights, sharp analysis, and scrupulous scholarship. It is, far and away, the most compelling single volume history of the 1960s currently available. A superb book."--Douglas Brinkley, University of New Orleans
"From 60s radical to 60s historian is a long passage and few have navigated it more intelligently than Maurice Isserman and Michael Kazin. America Divided reconstructs the decade in all its almost unbelievable complexity, presenting its ever-unfolding movements and events in clear, simple, and straightforward fashion, explaining ideological issues without ever being ideological itself. Its discussion of the disappearance of the liberal consensus under simultaneous assaults from the left and the right provide a necessary foundation for understanding American politics today. According to an already-old joke, `If you can remember the 60s you weren't really there,' but the joke is wrong. Reading Isserman and Kazin, it becomes possible not only to remember the decade but to at last begin to understand it."--Elinor Langer, Fellow of the Open Society Institute and author of Josephine Herbst
"When two accomplished historians of the calibre of Isserman and Kazin turn their talents to a survey of the Sixties, the result is an engrossing narrative and a highly intelligent analysis of the era's cultural, political, and social events. I found myself eagerly turning pages to see how they would handle the decade's key actors, moments, and trends, and was always rewarded with judicious and insightful treatments."--Lizabeth Cohen, Harvard University
"America Divided is an indispensable history of the 1960s. Isserman and Kazin grapple with the abundant paradoxes of an era of youthful activism and resurgent conservatism, of sexual revolution and religious revival, of naive political optimism and growing distrust in government. Their compelling narrative helps make sense of the most contentious political and cultural debates of our time."--Thomas J. Sugrue, University of Pennsylvania
"Recommended for academic, secondary school, and public libraries."--Library Journal
"In their new synthesis history of the United States in the 1960s, former student radicals Maurice Isserman and Michael Kazin reinterpret the decade as a politically complicated 'dramatization of our humanity,' not a Baby Boomer morality tale of sex, drugs, and protest."--Boston Review of Books
"A thoroughly detailed, well-written history of the tumultuous recent past."--Kirkus Reviews
"Thanks to this provocative and spirited book, we can begin to appreciate the 1960s as a time when 'things fell apart' only to be refashioned by people of conviction into the New America."--Ed Voves, The Philadelphia Inquirer
"[A] basic introduction to the period, debunks popular myths about the role of government and the nature of the counterculture, and helps call attention to overlooked parts of the story, ranging from changes in religious practice to the rise of a conservative social movement....[S]ets the standard by which popular accounts of the period will be judged in the future."--Edward Cohn, The Boston Book Review
"A knowing and highly readable narrative"--Evan Thomas, Washington Post


About The Author

Maurice Isserman is the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of History at Hamilton College, and is the author of If I Had a Hammer: The Death of the Old Left and the Birth of the New Left. He lives in upstate New York.Michael Kazin is Professor of History at Georgetown University, and is the author of The Populist Persuasion: An American History and Barons of Labor. He lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland.