U.S. History Qualifying Exams: Book Summaries

*Note: The following summaries were written in 2011. I cannot attest to their accuracy and are intended only for personal or educational use.*

Colonial America

  1. Bernard Bailyn, Voyagers to the West: A Passage in the Peopling of America on the Eve of Revolution
  2. Bernard Bailyn, Ideological Origins of the American Revolution
  3. Ira Berlin, Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America
  4. Timothy Breen, The Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence
  5. Holly Brewer, By Birth or Consent: Children, Law, and the Anglo-American Revolution in Authority
  6. Richard Bushman, The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities
  7. Jon Butler, Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People
  8. William Cronon, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England
  9. Thomas Doerflinger, A Vigorous Spirit of Enterprise: Merchants and Economic Development in Revolutionary Pennsylvania
  10. J.H. Elliott, Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America, 1492-1830
  11. Elizabeth Fenn, Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-1782
  12. David Hackett Fischer, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America
  13. Alison Games, Migration and the Origins of the English Atlantic World
  14. David Hall, Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment: Popular Religious Beliefs in Early New England
  15. Ellen Hartigan-O’Connor, The Ties That Buy: Women and Commerce in Revolutionary America
  16. Christine Heyrman, Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt
  17. Winthrop Jordan, White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812
  18. Linda Kerber, Women of the Republic: Intellect & Ideology in Revolutionary America
  19. Bruce Mann, Republic of Debtors: Bankruptcy in the Age of American Independence
  20. Philip Morgan, Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake & Lowcountry
  21. Mary Beth Norton, Liberty’s Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800
  22. John Shy, A People Numerous and Armed: Reflections on the Military Struggle for American Independence
  23. Alan Taylor, American Colonies: The Settling of North America
  24. Alan Taylor, William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic
  25. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812
  26. Richard White, The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815
  27. Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic
  28. Gordon Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution

Nineteenth-Century America

  1. Thomas G. Andrews, Killing for Coal: America’s Deadliest Labor War
  2. Joyce Appleby, Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans
  3. Ed Ayers, The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction
  4. Sven Beckert, Monied Metropolis: New York City and the Consolidation of the American Bourgeoisie, 1850-1896
  5. Menahem Blondheim, News Over the Wires: The Telegraph and the Flow of Public Information in America
  6. William Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West
  7. Ann Fabian, The Unvarnished Truth: Personal Narratives in Nineteenth-Century America
  8. Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877
  9. Eric Foner, The Story of American Freedom
  10. Eugene Genovese, The Political Economy of Slavery: Studies in the Economy and Society of the Slave South
  11. Steven Hahn, A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration
  12. Karen Halttunen, Confidence Men and Painted Women: A Study of Middle-Class Culture in America, 1830-1870
  13. Pekka Hämäläinen, The Comanche Empire
  14. Kristin Hoganson, Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars
  15. Reginald Horsman, Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism
  16. Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848
  17. Richard John, Network Nation: Inventing American Telecommunications
  18. Richard John, Spreading the News: The American Postal System from Franklin to Morse
  19. Paul Johnson, Sam Patch, the Famous Jumper
  20. Walter Johnson, Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market
  21. Jackson Lears, Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920
  22. Lawrence Levine, Black Culture & Black Consciousness
  23. Chandra Manning, What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War
  24. James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era
  25. Stephen Mihm, A Nation of Counterfeiters: Capitalists, Con Men, and the Making of the United States
  26. James Oakes, The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics
  27. Michael Perman, The Road to Redemption: Southern Politics, 1869-1879
  28. Charles Postel, The Populist Vision
  29. Andrés Reséndez, Changing National Identities at the Frontier: Texas and New Mexico, 1800-1850
  30. Seth Rockman, Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore
  31. David Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class
  32. Kirk Savage, Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America
  33. Charles Sellers, The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815-1846
  34. Amy Dru Stanley, From Bondage to Contract: Wage Labor, Marriage, and the Market in the Age of Slave Emancipation
  35. Christine Stansell, City of Women: Sex and Class in New York, 1789-1860
  36. Louis Warren, Buffalo Bill’s America: William Cody and the Wild West Show
  37. Elliott West, The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado
  38. Richard White, Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America
  39. Robert H. Wiebe, The Search for Order, 1877-1920
  40. Sean Wilentz, The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln

Twentieth-Century America

  1. George Chauncey, Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940
  2. Lizabeth Cohen, Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939
  3. Nancy Cott, The Grounding of Modern Feminism
  4. Mary Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy
  5. Neil Foley, The White Scourge: Mexicans, Poor Whites, and Blacks in Texas Cotton Culture
  6. John Lewis Gaddis, The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1941-1947
  7. Glenda Gilmore, Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896-1920
  8. James Gregory, American Exodus: The Dust Bowl Migration and Okie Culture in California
  9. Thomas Guglielmo, White on Arrival: Italians, Race, Color, and Power in Chicago, 1890-1945
  10. Richard Hofstadter, The Age of Reform: From Bryan to FDR
  11. Matthew Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race
  12. Robin Kelley, Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class
  13. David Kennedy, Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945
  14. Kevin Kruse, White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism
  15. Jackson Lears, Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920
  16. Erika Lee, At America’s Gates: Chinese Immigration During the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943
  17. Patricia Limerick, The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West
  18. Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era
  19. Lisa McGirr, Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right
  20. Mae Ngai, Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America
  21. Becky Nicolaides, My Blue Heaven: Life and Politics in the Working-Class Suburbs of Los Angeles, 1920-1965
  22. Peggy Pascoe, What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America
  23. Kathy Peiss, Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York
  24. Barbara Ransby, Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement
  25. Daniel Rodgers, Age of Fracture
  26. Daniel Rodgers, Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age
  27. Vicki Ruiz, Cannery Women, Cannery Lives: Mexican Women, Unionization, and the California Food Processing Industry, 1930-1950
  28. George Sánchez, Becoming Mexican American: Race, Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945
  29. Bruce Schulman, The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics
  30. Robert Self, American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland
  31. Thomas Sugrue, Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North
  32. Thomas Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit
  33. Jeremi Suri, Power and Protest: Global Revolution and the Rise of Détente
  34. Robert H. Wiebe, The Search for Order, 1877-1920

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U.S. History Qualifying Exams: Book Summaries by Cameron Blevins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

22 thoughts on “U.S. History Qualifying Exams: Book Summaries

  1. This is fantastic. I take my quals in August, and will certainly use your notes on the books we have in common to supplement my own notes. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Absolutely brilliant–this is what the spirit digital of history truly IS–the sharing of the “heavy lifting” of hundreds of hours of research with the world in general and students of history in particular. Best wishes for you in your future pursuits!

  3. Cameron,
    Thanks for this extremely useful information. I passed my qualifying exams and orals yesterday afternoon! Having your notes to compare with mine was a big help! THANKS!

  4. Thanks so much, Cameron. A lot of grad students at Harvard are being helped a lot by your generosity, this exams season.

  5. Cameron, I want to say thank you for providing this. Several friends and I were reliant on your website and this list in helping us pass our PhD comps this week. If I ever meet you, I am so buying you a very large mug of beer!

    1. Thanks for the note, and glad to hear they were helpful. Congratulations to you all on passing comps!

  6. Words cannot express how grateful I am that you created such a website. Comps would have been infinitely more grueling without your advice and summaries.

  7. I’d like to join the chorus and thank you for sharing these book summaries, Cameron. They were extremely helpful as I prepared for (and passed!) my comprehensive exams this past fall. There were several of us here at Notre Dame that leaned on them heavily. So thank you!

  8. This is amazing! Thank you for posting this. I’m definitely going to bookmark this for when I have my comps! It’s also a good idea — maybe I’ll go and post up my notes of other texts for people to see, this is such a great resource!

  9. Dr. Blevins, I speak for the entire U.S. history cohort about to take comprehensive exams at my school when I say — thank you for this resource!

  10. Thank you so much for these. I am taking comps this semester, and your summaries are helping send me the right direction to plug some gaps. Several books you summarized are on my reading list, so that helps a ton.

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