On rare occasions in American history, Congress enacts a measure so astute, so far-reaching, so revolutionary, it enters the language as a metaphor. The Marshall Plan comes to mind, as does the Civil Rights Act. But perhaps none resonates in the American imagination like the G.I. Bill.
In a brilliant addition to Oxford's acclaimed Pivotal Moments in American History series, historians Glenn C. Altschuler and Stuart M. Blumin offer a compelling and often surprising account of the G.I. Bill and its sweeping and decisive impact on American life. Formally known as the Serviceman's Readjustment Act of 1944, it was far from an obvious, straightforward piece of legislation, but resulted from tense political maneuvering and complex negotiations. As Altschuler and Blumin show, an unlikely coalition emerged to shape and pass the bill, bringing together both New Deal Democrats and conservatives who had vehemently opposed Roosevelt's social-welfare agenda. For the first time in American history returning soldiers were not only supported, but enabled to pursue success--a revolution in America's policy towards its veterans. Once enacted, the G.I. Bill had far-reaching consequences. By providing job training, unemployment compensation, housing loans, and tuition assistance, it allowed millions of Americans to fulfill long-held dreams of social mobility, reshaping the national landscape. The huge influx of veterans and federal money transformed the modern university and the surge in single home ownership vastly expanded America's suburbs. Perhaps most important, as Peter Drucker noted, the G.I. Bill "signaled the shift to the knowledge society." The authors highlight unusual or unexpected features of the law--its color blindness, the frankly sexist thinking behind it, and its consequent influence on race and gender relations.
The “Pivotal Moments in American History” series seeks to unite the old and the new history, combining the insights and techniques of recent historiography with the power of traditional narrative. Each title has a strong narrative arc with drama, irony, suspense, and – most importantly – great characters who embody the human dimension of historical events. The general editors of “Pivotal Moments” are not just historians; they are popular writers themselves, and, in two cases, Pulitzer Prize winners: David Hackett Fischer, James M. McPherson, and David Greenberg. We hope you like your American History served up with verve, wit, and an eye for the telling detail!
©2009 Glenn Altschuler and Stuart Blumin (P)2010 Audible, Inc.