cover image The Proud Decades: America in War and in Peace, 1941-1960

The Proud Decades: America in War and in Peace, 1941-1960

John Patrick Diggins. W. W. Norton & Company, $19.95 (381pp) ISBN 978-0-393-02548-4

In this compact, highly readable survey of the period bracketed by Pearl Harbor and the election of John F. Kennedy, the author of The American Left in the Twentieth Century pays special attention to the years before the complacency-shattering launch of Sputnik in 1957. Diggins takes issue with the view that the '50s were a period of stagnant passivity, but acknowledges that the Eisenhower administration's stance on education, poverty, unemployment, medical care, the environment and civil-rights programs was more toward postponement than confrontation. Particularly sensitive to the pressures on black Americans during the two decades in question, his comments on this theme run throughout the text. Diggins covers a lot of territory with grace and clarity, including ``the most popular war in American history,'' the Cold and Korean Wars during the Truman years, the scientific and artistic influence of European war refugees, the budding of youth culture, the first stirrings of feminism and the early struggles of civil rights activists. Photos. History Book Club selection. (September)