In The Promise of America, historian Odd S. Lovoll tells the story of the thousands of Norwegian immigrants who gambled on a fresh start in the United States. Now, Lovoll has carefully revised this successful book to reflect new understandings of the
Norwegian-American past, updating this story to today. Changes for this ediition include additional photographs, expanded treatment of the causes of migration, extensive details about the urban Norwegian-American experience, new information about immigrant fiction and reading societies, enriched discussions of Norwegians in the Civil War and the Socialist movement, and more.
The Promise of America was first published in English in 1984. In the following years there was a renewal of scholarly interest in immigration, ethnicity, and multicultural issues. Contributions were also made in Norwegian-American scholarship. This revised edition takes into account these advances in the field.
The main interpretive point of view is, however, unchanged: Norwegian-American history is interpreted as an independent historical process. Norwegians in America and in Norway are a people divided by migration. Norwegian Americans are an integral part of American social history even though they obviously have been influenced by their relationship with Norway. It is in this connection important to bear in mind that the homeland's move toward modernization must not become the norm against which Norwegian-American cultural developments are judged. These must be taken seriously on their own terms.
Identity, culture, and social life were formed by forces within the Norwegian-American population itself and by the expectations from and interaction with an ethnically pluralistic America. Norwegians were, in other words, active participants in giving shape to the society to which they belonged. In this process they evinced an impressive ability for innovation and adjustment as they established themselves in the new environment. By focusing on such universal human qualities, concepts
such as "the divided heart" are made less relevant. It is Norwegian-American history—from its beginning in 1825 and into the 1990s—from such a perspective that this revised edition strives to interpret.