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Though he was a hero of the Revolutionary War, a prominent New York politician, and vice president of the United States, Aaron Burr is today best remembered as the villain who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel.
But as H. W. Brands demonstrates in this fascinating portrait of one of the most compelling politicians in American history, Burr was also a man before his time—a proponent of equality between the sexes well over a century before women were able to vote in the US. Through Burr's extensive, witty correspondence with his daughter Theodosia, Brands traces the arc of a scandalous political career and the early years of American politics. The Heartbreak of Aaron Burr not only dramatizes through their words his eventful life, it also tells a touching story of a father's love for his exceptional daughter, which endured through public shame, bankruptcy, and exile, and outlasted even Theodosia's tragic disappearance at sea.
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A comprehensive account of the rise and fall of one of the major shapers of American foreign policy
On the eve of his inauguration as President, Woodrow Wilson commented, "It would be the irony of fate if my administration had to deal chiefly with foreign affairs." As America was drawn into the Great War in Europe, Wilson used his scholarship, his principles, and the political savvy of his advisers to overcome his ignorance of world affairs and lead the country out of isolationism. The product of his efforts—his vision of the United States as a nation uniquely suited for moral leadership by virtue of its democratic tradition—is a view of foreign policy that is still in place today.
Acclaimed historian and Pulitzer Prize finalist H. W. Brands offers a clear, well-informed, and timely account of Wilson's unusual route to the White House, his campaign against corporate interests, his struggles with rivals at home and allies abroad, and his decline in popularity and health following the rejection by Congress of his League of Nations. Wilson emerges as a fascinating man of great oratorical power, depth of thought, and purity of intention.
Lauded as "a rip-roaring life" (Wall Street Journal), TR is a magisterial biography of Theodore Roosevelt by bestselling author H.W. Brands. In his time, there was no more popular national figure than Roosevelt. It was not just the energy he brought to every political office he held or his unshakable moral convictions that made him so popular, or even his status as a bonafide war hero. Most important, Theodore Roosevelt was loved by the people because this scion of a privileged New York family loved America and Americans.
And yet, according to Brands, if we look at the private Roosevelt without blinders, we see a man whose great public strengths hid enormous personal deficiencies; he was uncompromising, self-involved, and a highly imperfect brother, husband, and father.
Beautifully written, and powerfully moved by its subject, TR is the classic biography of one of America's greatest and most complex leaders.
In The Devil We Knew, Brands provides a witty, perceptive history of the American experience of the Cold War, from Truman's creation of the CIA to Ronald Reagan's creation of SDI. Brands has written a number of highly regarded works on America in the twentieth century; here he puts his experience to work in a volume of impeccable scholarship and exceptional verve. He turns a critical eye to the strategic conceptions (and misconceptions) that led a once-isolationist nation to pursue the war against communism to the most remote places on Earth. By the time Eisenhower left office, the United States was fighting communism by backing dictators from Iran to South Vietnam, from Latin America to the Middle East--while engaging in covert operations the world over. Brands offers no apologies for communist behavior, but he deftly illustrates the strained thinking that led Washington to commit gravely disproportionate resources (including tens of thousands of lives in Korea and Vietnam) to questionable causes. He keenly analyzes the changing policies of each administration, from Nixon's juggling (SALT talks with Moscow, new relations with Ccmmunist China, and bombing North Vietnam) to Carter's confusion to Reagan's laserrattling. Equally important is his incisive, often amusing look at how the anti-Soviet struggle was exploited by politicians, industrialists, and government agencies. He weaves in deft sketches of figures like Barry Goldwater and Henry Jackson (who won a Senate seat with the promise, "Many plants will be converting from peace time to all-out defense production"). We see John F. Kennedy deliver an eloquent speech in 1957 defending the rising forces of nationalism in Algeria and Vietnam; we also see him in the White House a few years later, ordering a massive increase in America's troop commitment to Saigon. The book ranges through the economics and psychology of the Cold War, demonstrating how the confrontation created its own constituencies in private industry and public life.
In the end, Americans claimed victory in the Cold War, but Brands's account gives us reason to tone down the celebrations. "Most perversely," he writes, "the call to arms against communism caused American leaders to subvert the principles that constituted their country's best argument against communism." This far-reaching history makes clear that the Cold War was simultaneously far more, and far less, than we ever imagined at the time.
Ulysses Grant rose from obscurity to discover he had a genius for battle, and he propelled the Union to victory in the Civil War. After Abraham Lincoln's assassination and the disastrous brief presidency of Andrew Johnson, America turned to Grant again to unite the country, this time as president. In Brands's sweeping, majestic full biography, Grant emerges as a heroic figure who was fearlessly on the side of right. He was a beloved commander in the field but willing to make the troop sacrifices necessary to win the war, even in the face of storms of criticism. He worked valiantly to protect the rights of freedmen in the South; Brands calls him the last presidential defender of black civil rights for nearly a century. He played it straight with the American Indians, allowing them to shape their own fate even as the realities of Manifest Destiny meant the end of their way of life. He was an enormously popular president whose memoirs were a huge bestseller; yet within decades of his death his reputation was in tatters, the victim of Southerners who resented his policies on Reconstruction. In this page-turning biography, Brands now reconsiders Grant's legacy and provides a compelling and intimate portrait of a man who saved the Union on the battlefield and consolidated that victory as a resolute and principled political leader.
An "insightful" (Publishers Weekly) history of the development of American capitalism and the men who made it great.
Most Americans are familiar with the political history of the United States, but there is another history woven all through it, a largely forgotten history—the story of the money men. Acclaimed historian H. W. Brands brings them back to life: J. P. Morgan, who stabilized a foundering U.S. Treasury in 1907; Alexander Hamilton, who founded the first national bank, and Nicholas Biddle, under whose directorship it failed; Jay Cooke, who helped to finance the Union war effort through his then-innovative strategy of selling bonds to ordinary Americans; and Jay Gould, who tried to corner the market on gold in 1869 and as a result brought about Black Friday and fled for his life.
Here, in a wittily told and deeply insightful history, is a complete set of portraits of America's greatest generators of wealth. Only such a collective study allows us to appreciate what makes the great entrepreneurs really tick. As H. W. Brands shows, these men and women are driven, they are focused, they deeply identify with the businesses they create, and they possess the charisma necessary to persuade other talented people to join them. They do it partly for the money, but mostly for the thrill of creation.
The stories told here -- including how Nike got its start as a business-school project for Phil Knight; how Robert Woodruff almost refused to take control of Coca-Cola to spite his father; how Thomas Watson saved himself from prison by rescuing Dayton, Ohio, from a flood; how Jay Gould nearly cornered the gold market; how H. L. Hunt went from gambling at cards to gambling with oil leases -- make for a narrative that is always lively and revealing and often astonishing. An observer in 1850, studying John Jacob Astor, would not have predicted the rise of Henry Ford and the auto industry. Nor would a student of Ford in 1950 have anticipated the takeoff of direct marketing that made Mary Kay Ash a trusted guide for millions of American women. Full of surprising insights, written with H. W. Brands's trademark flair, the stories in Masters of Enterprise are must reading for all students of American business history.
why an ever-increasing number of Americans do not trust the federal government to
improve their lives and to heal major social ills. How is it that government has come to be
seen as the source of many of our problems, rather than the potential means of their
solution? How has the word liberal become a term of abuse in American political
discourse? From the Revolution on, argues Brands, Americans have been chronically
skeptical of their government. This book succinctly traces this skepticism, demonstrating
that it is only during periods of war that Americans have set aside their distrust and
looked to their government to defend them. The Cold War, Brands shows, created an
extended--and historically anomalous--period of dependence, thereby allowing for the
massive expansion of the American welfare state. Since the 1970s, and the devastating
blow dealt to Cold War ideology by America's defeat in Vietnam, Americans have
returned to their characteristic distrust of government. With the collapse of the Soviet
Union in 1991, Brands contends, the fate of American liberalism was sealed--and we
continue to live with the consequences of its demise.
Even before he was shot dead on the stairway of the tony Grand Central Hotel in 1872, financier James “Jubilee Jim” Fisk, Jr., was a notorious New York City figure. From his audacious attempt to corner the gold market in 1869 to his battle for control of the geographically crucial Erie Railroad, Fisk was a flamboyant exemplar of a new financial era marked by volatile fortunes and unprecedented greed and corruption. But it was his scandalously open affair with a showgirl named Josie Mansfield that ultimately led to his demise.
In this riveting short history, H. W. Brands traces Fisk’s extraordinary downfall, bringing to life New York’s Gilded Age and some of its legendary players, including Boss William Tweed, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and the railroad tycoon Jay Gould.
Ranging from the Spanish-American War to the fall of Ferdinand Marcos and beyond, Brands deftly weaves together the histories of both nations as he assesses America's great experiment with empire. He leaps from the turbulent American scene in the 1890s--the labor unrest, the panic of 1893, the emergence of Progressivism, the growing tension with Spain--to the shores of the newly acquired colony: Dewey's conquest of Manila, the vicious war against the Philippine insurgents, and the founding of American civilian rule. As Brands takes us through the following century, describing the efforts to "civilize" the Filipinos, the shaping of Philippine political practices, the impact of General MacArthur, and World War II and the Cold War, he provides fascinating insight into the forces and institutions that made American rule what it was, and the Republic of the Philippines what it is today. He uncovers the origins of the corruption and nepotism of post-independence Philippine politics, as well as the ambivalence of American rule, in which liberal principles of self-determination clashed with the desire for empire and a preoccupation first with Japan and later with communism. The book comes right up to the present day, with an incisive account of the rise and fall of Ferdinand Marcos, the accession (and subsequent troubles) of Corazon Aquino, the Communist guerrilla insurgency, and the debate over the American military bases.
"Damn the Americans!" Manuel Quezon once said. "Why don't they tyrannize us more?" Indeed, as Brands writes, American rule in the Philippines was more benign than that of any other colonial power in the Pacific region. Yet it failed to foster a genuine democracy. This fascinating book explains why, in a perceptive account of a century of empire and its aftermath.
In The Wages of Globalism, Brands conducts a witty and insightful tour through LBJ's foreign policy--a tour that begins in Washington, runs through Santa Domingo, Nicosia, and Jakarta, and ends in Saigon. He opens with a thoughtful portrayal of the tense, often fruitful relationship between the domineering Johnson and his advisers--Dean Rusk, Robert McNamara, George Ball, Clark Clifford, Walt Rostow--as he picked up Kennedy's legacy and sought to make it his own. Leaving Vietnam for the end, Brands presents the various crises with all the force the White House felt at the time: the Dominican intervention, India impending famine and war with Pakistan, the coup against Sukarno in Indonesia, France's departure from NATO's unified command, the threat of fighting between Greece and Turkey over Cyprus, the Six Day War, and the worry that Germany might acquire nuclear weapons. In each, Brands captures the uncertainty in Washington and the conflicting advice that Johnson received. The picture that emerges is remarkably positive, revealing the president's ability to pick his way through fierce complexities. He forcefully stopped a war over Cyprus; handled de Gaulle with equanimity and skill; and--over the objections of all his advisers--intentionally delayed shipping grain to famine-threatened India, creating a real momentum for agricultural reform in that country that ultimately led to self-sufficiency. Only in Vietnam did Johnson's sure balance of determination and judgment break down: worried about his domestic program and the need to stand firm against aggression, he let his determination run away with him.
"In 1947," H.W. Brands writes, "Truman made a bad bargain with history." By the time Johnson inherited the White House, it had become painfully clear that America was no longer supreme in the world, able to prop up the status quo worldwide. In this fascinating, behind-the- scenes account, Brands shows how skillfully Johnson steered the nation into the new era--until, in Southeast Asia, politics and his own personality led him into the ultimate trap of the Truman Doctrine.