Context is key. If I learned anything while earning my minor in American History, it was that statement. You can evaluate an event such as a war, but without studying its context, it is difficult to understand the bigger picture. Context allows you to walk in another person’s shoes. It allows you to understand reactions and actions that might otherwise confuse you or seem ridiculous.
It is this concept that makes the book “December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World” an excellent resource. Each chapter reflects one day in American history and the author demonstrates his extensive research in every paragraph. His ability to paint a picture of what was going on culturally, politically, and historically in terms of the war is incredible. He read through thousands of newspapers for each day in order to get a sense of what it must have been like to be an American during December 1941. By so doing, you get a greater sense of what World War II looked like to Americans of that day. I loved the headlines and the stories that he would bring up, seemingly unrelated to the war at hand; but it is exactly those items that help you feel as though you are in 1941 and that this is your reality. This book was fascinating from cover to cover, which is not always the case with historical accounts.
When you look at WWII, it’s often difficult to understand the thoughts and reasons behind the reactions, the actions (i.e. concentration camps in the U.S.) because we are looking back without a context of what it felt like to live as an American during these times. The author does an excellent job of bringing you back in time, helping you to see and feel what Americans must have felt during Pearl Harbor and the events occurring afterward.
As a student of history, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I learned a great deal about 1941. I highly recommend it!
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