In This Review

Savage Peace: Hope and Fear in America, 1919
Savage Peace: Hope and Fear in America, 1919
By Ann Hagedorn
Simon and Schuster, 2007, 560 pp

Hagedorn's history of 1919 is not without virtues. The idea is a good one: 1919 was a vital year in U.S. history. The adoption of the constitutional amendments giving women the vote and establishing Prohibition marked the high-water mark of the moral impulses of the Progressive era. The racial unrest of that year marked a turning point in the history of U.S. race relations. The stormy negotiations in Paris over what became the Treaty of Versailles, the influenza pandemic, the struggles over the Allied intervention in Russia, and the grotesque excesses of the internal security apparatus the Wilson administration had established during the war were all fateful events. At her best, Hagedorn writes lively and dramatic accounts of such milestones. Unfortunately, her narrative is often too trite and tendentious to do justice to her subject, with the world divided into stock "progressive" heroes and "reactionary" villains. From her point of view, for example, the Allied intervention against the Bolsheviks was an evil plot to suppress freedom, supported by bankers and other war-mongering, red-baiting, worker-crushing members of the bourgeoisie. Allied intervention in Russia may have been ill judged and futile, but there were many reasons why decent, honest friends of Russia -- and of humanity in general -- would have wanted to nip the horrors of Bolshevism and the Russian Civil War in the bud.