Ideas and Movements That Shaped America: From the Bill of Rights to “Occupy Wall Street.” Edited by Michael S. Green and Scott L. Stabler. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2015. 3 vols. acid-free $294 (ISBN 978-1-61069-251-9). Ebook available (978-1-61069-252-6) call for pricing.

This three volume encyclopedia offers more than 200 key concepts in American history from “Abolition” to “Zionism” similar to the earlier Encyclopedia of American Social Movements edited by Immanuel Ness (Sharpe 2004). While Ness uses sixteen larger groupings, Green and Stabler present more than 200 discrete ideas in alphabetical order in 1,000-3,000–word commentaries coupled with related excerpts of primary documents including laws, speeches, essays, and interviews that highlight significant voices and moments in American history. A timeline in the first volume situates the ideas in their historical context.

The focus on ideas rather than the history allows for the exploration and connections between early concepts to current outcomes. For example, the entry on “Consumerism” juxtaposes a vintage Chevy advertisement with an excerpt from “Wealth Against Commonwealth” by Henry Damarest Lloyd, showing the tension between the idealism and reality of capitalism. The commentary further elucidates these tensions with an analysis of early trade with Great Britain, the Protestant Work Ethic, industrialization, the Roaring Twenties, and more modern permutations of ethical consumerism and post-consumerism.

While the items are presented as discrete, some of the breakouts aren’t intuitive or consistent. For example, there is no entry dealing with abortion. Instead, this issue appears in three sections across two volumes: “Birth Control,” “Pro-Choice Movement,” and “Right to Life” requiring cross-referencing and creating significant repetition. Finally, the primary documents hint at a political bias, especially the inclusion of Roe v. Wade as the Right to Life document instead of a more obvious statement by a leader within this group.

Each entry also includes a further reading section with additional resources on the topical focus. However, these are also somewhat inconsistent. Some entries such as “Abolition” cite a significant, focused reading list of more than a dozen books and journal sources, yet the reading list of Jim Crow offers only three books in spite of significant scholarship in this area. Again, the authors and editors seem to struggle with the “Right to Life” reading list which appears substantial, but looks more at democracy and constitutional law than the actual movement.

The editors clearly state their objective to be “thorough” over “comprehensive” (xx). Although there are some inconsistencies, in many of the entries the editorial goal is achieved with strong, balanced commentary, important connections to primary resources, and additional titles in the area. Therefore, the work as a whole provides a good foundation for high school and lower level undergraduates in gaining a brief overview of key concepts in American history.—Donna Church, Reference Librarian, Webster University Libraries, St. Louis, Missouri


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