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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America (audiobook) by Steven M. Gillon

Published in June of 2006 by Random House Audio
Read by Stephen Hoye.
Duration: 8 hours, 51 minutes.

The book and audiobook for 10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America are companion works for a History Channel series of the same name. They cover the same ten days but are independently researched and written. These dates are not the super-obvious ones like July 4, 1776 and December 7, 1941. One could quibble with the choices (it is part of the fun of a project like this one) but his choices are good ones.

Here are the ten days and a few comments:

1) May 26, 1637

The date of a Puritan massacre of Indians at Mystic. He argues that King Philip's War is the model of American/Indian relations for the next 250+ years.

2) January 25, 1787

Shay's Rebellion and its influence on the Constitution. Emphasized the need for a more centralized government.

3) January 24, 1848

California Gold Rush. Focused on environmental degradation and not so much on the effect of all that gold on the American economy. It was a rather depressing entry.

4) September 17, 1862

The Battle of Antietam and the Emancipation Proclamation

5) July 6, 1892

The Homestead Strike against Carnegie Steel. The date of the battle against the Pinkerton agents. I was struck that the author noted in a single sentence that Carnegie (who comes off very poorly in this whole affair, no matter who is writing it) gave some money to charities. Carnegie gave away 90% of his immense fortune, well over $4 billion dollars in 2010 dollars, to charities across the globe, including having a hand in building nearly half of the public libraries in America (1,689 in total).

Carnegie was a complex man, he gets a one dimensional treatment in this entry.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919)
6) September 6, 1901

The assassination of William McKinley and the subsequent Roosevelt Administration. The rise of activist government.

7) July of 1925

The Scopes Monkey Trial as a harbinger of future culture wars. Interestingly, it was started as a publicity stunt to attract tourists and is almost nothing like the play "Inherit the Wind."

8) August 2, 1939

Albert Einstein's letter to FDR about the possibility of the creation of an atomic bomb. This entry has some poor linkage to the Civil Rights movement and the creation of the Internet (I know it was created to communicate in the event of a nuclear war but this is still a stretch).

9) September 9, 1956

Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan Show. Focuses on the rise of teen culture, ending racial divisions and loosening sexual mores. This was an exceptionally long and interesting entry.

10) June 21, 1964

"Freedom Summer"

In a lot of ways, this entry was really and addendum to the points made in date number 9. It is a powerful entry and exceptionally well-read by the narrator, Stephen Hoye, who includes very good Southern accents when reading quotes by Southerners.

This will be an interesting listen for any history buff. Be prepared that the author's comments tend to drift to the political left. Nonetheless, it is well worth your time.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: 10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America (History Channel Presents)

I rate this audiobook 4 stars out of 5.

Reviewed on December 18, 2012.

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