HANGING TOGETHER: Unity and Diversity in American Culture

John Higham, Author, Carl J. Guarneri, Editor . Yale Univ. $40 (336p) ISBN 978-0-300-08818-2

Forget Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam: the first visual representation of America was a mostly naked woman, probably a cannibal, armed with a bow and arrow and surrounded by wild, dangerous animals. After the war of independence, historian Higham (Strangers in the Land) explains, this 18th-century European image quickly gave way to others. Now in his 80s, Higham, a professor emeritus at Johns Hopkins University and past president of the Organization of American Historians, casts a wide net in this collection of 14 previously published essays—the role of mechanical invention in U.S. history, how ideas about whiteness shaped notions of citizenship in 1900, the relationship between penmanship and urbanization—and focuses on the constant reinvention of the "American." He grapples with the conflict between a unitary notion of national identity and a more multicultural vision of the U.S., and faces some problems when he attempts the difficult task of finding a middle ground between the two. Not wanting to ignore multicultural critiques, Higham discusses them but never manages to reconcile them with his more historically orthodox belief in the existence—and desirability—of a national character and culture, though he makes many insightful and enlightening inquiries along the way. Throughout the collection, Higham exhibits a comprehensive knowledge and a sharp, analytic mind. Although intended for serious students of history, Higham's work is accessible to the amateur historian and a general readership with a background in U.S. intellectual history. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/07/2001
Release date: 06/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-0-300-12982-3
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