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America in the Fifties

Andrew J. Dunar
With a Foreword by John Robert Greene

Cloth $45.00L    |    0-8156-3103-0    |    2006

Paper $24.95s    |   0-8156-3128-6    |    2006

A concise and accessible account of the era written with an eye toward engaging the student and general reader.

"Students who want a primer covering social issues and sentiments of the 1950s now have a fine coverage which will introduce both high school and college ages to both the promise and the dangers of the era. From the rise of the Beat Generation and the ‘golden age’ of TV to the threats of war and world-wide annihilation, America in the Fifties succeeds in capturing the hopes, promise and temperament of an era. Chapters cover a range of topic, from the influence of business and economic growth and changes to political figures who made a lasting impact on American society."
The Midwest Book Reiew

Blessed by a booming economy, the United States experienced the benefits of technology in the 1950s, with television and the automobile transforming the way people lived, and the space race offering new challenges. At the same time, the nation faced domestic divisions and international crises that would have far-reaching historical and political consequences.

The 1950s evoke images of prosperity, suburbia, a smiling President Eisenhower, cars with elaborate tail fins, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and the "golden age" of television-seemingly a simpler time in which the idealized family life of situation comedies had at least some basis in reality. A closer examination, however, recalls more threatening images: the hysteria of McCarthyism, the shadow of the atomic bomb, war in Korea, the Soviet threat manifested in the launch of Sputnik and the bombast of Nikita Khrushchev, and a clash over the integration of public buses in Montgomery, Alabama, and a high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. Andrew J. Dunar successfully shows how the issues confronting America in the late twentieth century have roots in the fifties, some apparent at the time, others only in retrospect: civil rights, environmentalism, the counterculture, and "movements" on behalf of women, Latinos, and Native Americans.

The rise of the "beats," the continuing development of jazz, the emergence of rock ‘n’ roll, and the art of Jackson Pollock reveal the decade to be less conformist than commonly portrayed. While the cold war rivalry with the Soviet Union generated the most concern, Dunar skillfully illustrates how the rise of Nasser in Egypt, Castro in Cuba, and Communist regimes in North Korea, Vietnam, and China signaled new regional challenges to American power.

This book will be ideal for instructors of American history survey courses at the high school and undergraduate levels.

Andrew J. Dunar is chair of the Department of History at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. His books include The Truman Scandals and the Politics of Morality, and with Stephen P. Waring, Power to Explore: A History of Marshall Space Flight Center, 1960-1990, which won the History Book Award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) in 2000.

Photograph: Experts displaying a model of Explorer I, the first American satellite. Courtesy of the History Office, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.

6 x 9, 368 pages, 11 black-and-white photographs, bibliographies, index

America in the Fifties

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