A Students' Guide to U.S. History

Book cover: 'A Students' Guide to U.S. History'
Wilfred M. McClay
ISI Books (Intercollegiate Studies Institute)
Number of pages: 
93 pages
Grade / Age level: 
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In A Students' Guide to U.S. History, author Wilfred M. McClay challenges the mind of the reader to think wider, deeper and higher about the study of American history. After explaining the purpose behind this book, he elaborates on what the study of history mistakenly is thought to be, before he realigns the reader's mind to what it should be. Taking a philosophical turn of mind, he dares the reader to search for truth; to do otherwise would be folly.

Rather than consider the study of American history as a boring parade of facts, he implores the reader to consider it "as a drama of incomparable sweep and importance." At the same time, he reminds us that "American history needs to be seen in the context of a larger drama."

Another reason he gives for studying history is because it tells us about ourselves.

Calling it a gallery of windows, there are a number of topics related to the study of history he suggests studying: America and Europe, Capitalism, Founding, Frontier, and many others. He gives an overview of each topic, discusses the proper lens through which the reader should view each topic, and offers additional reading selections. He closes with a list of dos and don'ts for studying and researching history and offers a final list of suggested reading.

Overall, the style of writing although intellectual and challenging at times, is not incomprehensible, stretching our vocabularies with an occasional, unfamiliar word or phrase, such as "opine portentously," "incommensurable," or "cynosure."

Even though the book is intended for college age students, a high school student or anyone for that matter interested in the study of history would benefit from this book. My only caution would be that a parent read any of the suggested fiction titles before handing them to a high school student. Some are not a problem, but others warrant discussion, or may contain parts which would be considered objectionable.

This guide is also available to download for free at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute home page.

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