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Aaron J. Leonard

Author | Historian

Coming — May 17, 2024

Historians correctly remind us that, in the 1960s, America experienced cultural and political turmoil that still resonates nearly six decades later. But in Meltdown Expected, Aaron J. Leonard proves the overlooked point that events during the last years of the 1970s were just as crucial, from Jonestown to Three Mile Island, from the rise of the Religious Right to the growing threat of violence both at home and abroad. I frankly cannot conceive of a more important book for readers who want to truly understand not only how we have gotten to where we are today, but why.

—author of The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple



Aaron J. Leonard has produced a fascinating account of an era that is growing quickly away from contemporary public attention. He shows that the world we live in today had not yet taken definitive shape, that the fluidity of social movements still alive from the 1960s, in some ways still growing, had the capacity to enhance democracy but fell toward failure. The power on the other side proved too great. Still, the details offer important clues for what may yet become the dynamos of tomorrow's American promise.


—co-editor with Mari Jo Buhle of the Encyclopedia of the American Left

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In January 1978, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed that “There is all across our land a growing sense of peace and a sense of common purpose.” Yet in the ensuing months, a series of crises disturbed that fragile sense of peace, ultimately setting the stage for Reagan’s decisive victory in 1980 and ushering in the final phase of the Cold War.

Meltdown Expected tells the story of the power shifts from late 1978 through 1979 whose repercussions are still being felt. Iran’s revolution led to a hostage crisis while neighbouring Afghanistan became the site of a proxy war between the USSR and the US, who supplied aid to Islamic mujahideen fighters that would later form the Taliban. Meanwhile, as tragedies like the Jonestown mass suicide and the assassination of Harvey Milk captured the nation’s attention, the government quietly reasserted and expanded the FBI’s intelligence powers. Drawing from recently declassified government documents and covering everything from Three Mile Island to the rise of punk rock, Aaron J. Leonard paints a vivid portrait of a tumultuous yet pivotal time in American history.

COPYRIGHT 2023 AARON J. LEONARD