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Encounter BooksIn Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story, the distinguished historian Wilfred McClay has produced a thorough yet accessible overview of American history. Neither condemning nor whitewashing America and her people, McClay faithfully recounts our nation's past from the vantage point of a partisan of the principles of the American Founding—those of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. At a time when questions concerning how to understand America are being debated in the public square—for example, is America fundamentally flawed and built on slavery and subjugation as Howard Zinn and the New York Times's 1619 Project claim—McClay tells an inspiring account of America based on truth instead of ideology. His book can help form individuals living in America into informed and patriotic citizens, willing to pass on the blessings of liberty they received to future generations. 

Please visit Encounter Books's website for more information on Land of Hope.

Wilfred McClay in Print

"Rediscovering the Wisdom in American History," Imprimis: Professional American historiography has made steady advances in the breadth and sophistication with which it approaches certain aspects of the past, but those advances have come at the expense of public knowledge and shared historical consciousness. The story of America has been fractured into a thousand pieces and burdened with so much ideological baggage that studying history actually alienates young Americans from the possibility of properly appreciating their past. Nearly 20 years ago I wrote a small book called The Student’s Guide to U.S. History for ISI Books. I was unable to include in its bibliography a high school or college level textbook on U.S. history, because there was not one suitable for recommendation....Read more.

"The Weaponization of History," Wall Street Journal: History is the most humbling and humanizing of subjects. It opens reality to us in all its gorgeous variety, from the earthbound lives of ordinary peasants and servants to the rarefied universe of the mighty and wealthy, and the astonishing range of human experience in between. It seeks to provide a balanced and honest record of humanity’s achievements and enormities alike, generous enough to acknowledge the mixture of motives that every one of us flawed humans bring to life’s tasks....Read more.

"The Genius of American Patriotism," Fox News: There is a strong tendency in modern American society to treat patriotism as a dangerous sentiment, a passion to be guarded against. But this is a serious misconception. To begin with, we should acknowledge that there is something natural about patriotism, as an expression of love for what is one’s own, gratitude for what one has been given, and reverence for the sources of one’s being. These responses are instinctive; they’re grounded in our natures and the basic facts of our birth. Yet their power is no less for that, and they are denied only at great cost....Read more.

"Reclaiming History from Howard Zinn," Wall Street JournalIf you’re old enough to remember the Soviet Union, you’ve probably wondered why so many young people today seem attracted to socialism. One influence is Howard Zinn, who published “A People’s History of the United States” in 1980, the year before the first millennials were born. The book “continues to be assigned in countless college and high-school courses, but its commercial sales have remained strong as well,” the Chronicle of Higher Education reported in 2003, on the occasion of its millionth copy sold. It kept selling after Zinn died in 2010: The Zinn Education Program website now claims more than two million sales....Read more.

"No Creed Without Culture," American Mind: The question of American national identity will be with us for a long time to come, so there will continue to be good reasons to revisit Samuel Huntington’s work repeatedly, along with subtle and respectful critiques of his work like this one from Charles Kesler. Still, it seems to me that the questions facing us have shifted a great deal in the past fifteen years, in ways that have greatly strengthened certain aspects of Huntington’s position, particularly in comparison to those of his then-opposite, Francis Fukuyama....Read more.

"How the New York Times Is Distorting History," Commentary: The New York Times seems to have made a grand splash with the August debut of its 1619 Project, which it unveiled to the world as an audacious effort to “reframe” all of American history as little more than the lengthened shadow of slavery. The title derives from the historical fact that 400 years ago, some 20 Africans were dropped off by (probably) a British privateer at Jamestown, Virginia—the first such individuals to appear in the British mainland North American colonies....Read more.

Media

Podcasts

Liberty Law Talk, Law & Liberty, "An Invitation to the Land of Hope: A Conversation with Bill McClay"

First Things Podcast, First Things, "A Conversation with Wilfred McClay"

The Learning Curve, Pioneer Institute, "Wilfred McClay on his new book, Land of Hope"

The BookmongerNational Review, "Land of Hope by Wilfred McClay"

The Power Line Show, Power Line Blog, "The Antidote to Howard Zinn?"

Videos

Hillsdale College, "An Overview of Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story"

CSPAN, "Book Talk on Land of Hope"

The Eric Metaxas Show, "Wilfred McClay on Land of Hope"

Pepperdine School of Public Policy, "Recovering the American Story"

Reviews

Allen Guelzo, Claremont Review of Books: Earlier this year, the Connecticut legislature adopted a bill which mandated the creation of a one-credit course on black and Latino history for the state’s high schools. “American history seemed to be a long catalog of kings, presidents, generals, a few industrialists and a couple of investors, that was about it,” complained the bill’s sponsor, Edwin Vargas of Hartford. But “religious, racial and ethnic groups, women, minorities, labor, unions—all these movements in America—they were lucky if they got one or two lines in one of our history books.” It was time, added Representative Bobby Gibson of Bloomfield, to shift the focus in history teaching...Read more.

Michael Taube, Washington Times: In May, The Wall Street Journal published an intriguing interview between Naomi Schaefer-Riley and intellectual historian Wilfred M. McClay. The University of Oklahoma professor’s goal for his then-upcoming book was to be the “antidote” to Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” (1980). In his view, Mr. Zinn’s leftist book had been “greatly oversimplifying the past and turning American history into a comic-book melodrama..." Read more.

Philip Terzian, Commentary: The ignorance of Americans about their history has a long history. You can find surveys of freshman classes at Harvard, conducted a century ago, that reveal startling lapses in basic knowledge. The myths of American history—the comforting fairy tales and conspiracy theories and outright inventions—are as numerous as the facts, and frequently better known. Even in the heyday of the liberal arts on campus, history was never a fashionable subject for study. As the Communists used to say, it is no coincidence that the famous scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off where the teacher is lecturing uninterested students involves a history lesson. And an important one, for as Wilfred M. McClay explains in Land of Hope, the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act of 1930 was...Read more.

Stephen Tootle, National Review: Pofessors and teachers across America should cancel their fall book orders and replace their current textbooks with Wilfred McClay’s Land of Hope. McClay, the G. T. and Libby Blankenship Chair in the History of Liberty at the University of Oklahoma, satisfies the promise made in the title of his latest work. In it, he invites everyone to learn how ideals drove America’s creation and success....Read more

Mike Sabo, Modern Age: The eminent historian Wilfred M. McClay has produced his masterwork, a sweeping overview of American history titled Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story. Written most immediately for high school students taking Advanced Placement courses, the book looks and feels the part of a history textbook. But unlike most of those dreary tomes, it reads like a bestselling thriller. In finely wrought yet readable prose, history comes alive in McClay’s expansive and thoughtful appraisal of the American story....Read more.

Tim Rice, City Journal: Wilfred McClay’s Land of Hope wastes no time making its purpose known. The first thing you notice about it is that it looks like a textbook. From its heft and glossy pages to its artistic cover and evocative subtitle (“An Invitation to the Great American Story”), this volume would look perfectly at home on a school desk, in a backpack, or jammed into a locker. Without even opening it, though, you can tell that Land of Hope is very different from that other book with which it is being been compared—Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States....Read more.

Bruce P. Frohnen, University Bookman: In this fine book, Wilfred McClay makes an important contribution to American education and culture. Every year it seems American young people emerge from school knowing less about their history even as they become more hostile toward their own tradition and values. The reason is not far to find. For decades, high schools and colleges have been subjecting students to textbooks designed to teach them that the United States can only be understood as that place where repeated injustices have been committed against marginalized groups. Even the physical layout of these texts denies America’s story as a land of hope. Sidebars and subnarratives are “broken out” from an almost vanishing central text to place tales of victimization at the center....Read more.

N.S. Palmer, American Greatness: What is the purpose of history? Is it merely a record of facts—of dates and kings, wars and voyages? Or is it something more? Evaluating a history textbook must begin with knowing what history is. A nation’s history is more than just a list of facts to memorize. It weaves the facts into an intellectual and emotional tapestry that tells us who we are, what our lives are about, and what kind of people we should aspire to be. It should be: Informative: Helping us understand the past by telling us what happened, when, and why. Enlightening: Helping us understand the present by comparing it to the past. Inspiring: Helping us develop moral character by learning stories of past heroism and villainy. Supportive: Helping our countries flourish by legitimizing the social order....Read more.

Howard L. Muncy, Public Discourse: Selecting a textbook is one of the most important choices that any instructor can make. When designing a course on American history, the process is even more critical. Some standard history texts are blatantly biased, while far more subtly tilt historical information in favor of a certain point of view. Many current works suffer from a modern historiography that reads the American story almost exclusively through a prism of race, class, and gender. These topics are important, but the overspecialization and simplistic approach of much contemporary scholarship have combined to turn history into a tale of woe and sorrow....Read more.

Jeff Muncy, Epoch Times: For 50 years, our familiarity with American history has taken a beating. In 2008, universities conferred 34,642 degrees in history. By 2017 that number had dropped to 24,266, according to the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History. Both university and high school students are increasingly ignorant about their country’s past. In 2014, only 18 percent of eighth graders scored at or above proficient in a National Assessment of Educational Progress assessment of U.S. History. Some college students don’t know that Adolph Hitler was dictator of Germany....Read more.

John Wood, Jr., Comment: It is fundamentally difficult to tell the American story. The difficulty does not arise out of the length of American history. While it is still a young country, the United States’ epic progression from rag-tag band of newly unified colonies to the world’s singular superpower and longest-lasting constitutional democracy is one whose essential thrusts can be captured in a single volume. That is the basic accomplishment of historian Wilfred McClay’s new book Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story. In it, McClay does a sound job of selecting and recounting the key episodes of our national saga from founding to the end of the Cold War in a way that will fill in the blank spots that riddle most peoples’ mental outline of the American story. It does so in a way that is not intimidating, while not sacrificing the core depth at the heart of any of its major subjects....Read more.

Jeff Minick, Intellectual Takeout: Some American politicians and organizations are now pushing an agenda they call democratic socialism. Many of them regard the Constitution as antiquated and unfit for our modern age and call for limits on free speech and an end to the Electoral College. Some consider America itself a deeply flawed nation, a swamp of bigotry and prejudice with few redeeming virtues. These bitter critiques and raucous demands for change raise a question. If the United States is such a bastion of oppression and misery, then why are so many immigrants, legal and illegal, trying to come here? If democratic socialism is the way to go, then why aren’t immigrants storming the borders of North Korea, Cuba...Read more

Ian Lindquist, Providence: Americans are a morally ambitious, aspirational people. They are also a pragmatic people. These two qualities often find themselves at odds, and American citizenship often takes a seemingly self-contradictory form because it can manifest itself as criticism of America’s shortcomings in the light of her moral aspirations, or deep appreciation and affection for what she has achieved and accomplished in the light of the difficulties she has faced....Read more.

Marc C. Shug, Library of Economics and Liberty: American history isn’t what it used to be. Once it was common for a history textbook author to tell a good story. I remember as an eighth-grade student being horrified that my teacher was going to toss out a bunch of history textbooks. She asked: “Does anyone want these old books?” My hand shot up immediately. I loved the stories.Thanks to Wilfred McClay’s new book titled Land of Hope: An Invitation to the American Story we have a better alternative. It is a concise American history text with a traditional table of contents with 22 chapters. The book is primarily a political history. While many textbooks are encyclopedic, McClay is concise, clocking in at 459 pages. The text features an excellent selection of photographs in the middle and a few key maps. The story is told without interruption....Read more.

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