In the Shadow of Fear: America and the World in 1950
An evocative portrait of a divided America at the dawn of the Cold War
Halfway through the twentieth century, the United States towered over the world in industrial might. After winning the 1948 election, Harry Truman hoped to use this economic strength to build on FDR’s achievements with new liberal reforms. But then, in just ten months between September 1949 and June 1950, the president’s ambitions were overtaken by events that left the country gripped by rage and fear. The Soviets tested an atomic bomb, Mao’s army swept through China, and at home Truman faced labor unrest and a Republican Party desperate for power.
In the Shadow of Fear is an innovative and gripping history of this pivotal moment. Recounting the launch of Senator Joe McCarthy’s anti-communist crusade, the defeat of Truman’s liberal program, and the start of the Korean War, prizewinning historian Nick Bunker shows us a polarized nation facing crises at home and abroad—a story with deep resonances today.
Praise for In the Shadow of Fear: America and the World in 1950
"A vivid look at a pivotal year at the beginning of the Cold War...Great history of a dismal period."
—Kirkus (starred review)
"Based on extensive primary research, this highly readable account highlights these critical months when the U.S. enjoyed its prosperity, and part of the world descended into violence. An important read for those interested in postwar American history, both domestic and abroad."
—Library Journal (starred review)
"An illuminating take on 20th-century American history."
“Only in 1950 did the 1930s reach their true conclusion,” argues Nick Bunker in In the Shadow of Fear, his account of a divisive era that rhymes eerily with our own. Bunker charts the months leading up to the Cold War not only through political players but by way of thinkers, films, literature, and feats of industry, pausing his narrative for periodic trips around the globe. He writes always with a keen eye and a graceful pen; this is the rich, original, and immersive story of America at a crossroads.”
—Stacy Schiff, New York Times–bestselling author of The Revolutionary
“A brilliant book, immersing us in the world of the year 1950, when the so-called ‘wise men’ who were then constructing the America-dominated post‒World War II era were confused fools stumbling in the dark, terrified.”
—J. Bradford DeLong, New York Times–bestselling author of Slouching Towards Utopia
“A page-turning narrative, Nick Bunker’s In the Shadow of Fear tells the story of America at the peak of its power and yet insecure. With his genius for the telling detail, his insight into personality, and his grasp of the arc of history, Bunker again proves himself a master storyteller.”
—Frank Costigliola, author of Kennan: A Life between Worlds