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Editor’s Note

“Iconic & Enduring...”

Zinn’s iconic alternate history is an enduring look into the people, rather than the politics, that shaped the current American landscape.
Scribd Editor

Since its original landmark publication in 1980, A People's History of the United States has been chronicling American history from the bottom up, throwing out the official version of history taught in schools–with its emphasis on great men in high places–to focus on the street, the home, and the workplace.

Known for its lively, clear prose as well as its scholarly research, A People's History is the only volume to tell America's story from the point of view of–and in the words of–America's women, factory workers, African Americans, Native Americans, working poor, and immigrant laborers. As historian Howard Zinn shows, many of our country's greatest battles–for a fair wage, an eight-hour workday, child-labor laws, health and safety standards, universal suffrage, women's rights, racial equality–were carried out at the grassroots level, against bloody resistance. Covering Christopher Columbus's arrival through the 2000 Election and the "war on terrorism," A People's History of the United States, which was nominated for the American Book Award in 1981 and has sold more than one million copies, features insightful analysis of the most important events in our history.

This new edition contains two new chapters covering the Clinton presidency, the 2000 Election, and the "war on terrorism," continuing Zinn's important contribution to a complete and balanced understanding of American history.

Topics: Race Relations, Presidents, Slavery, Colonialism, United States of America, Early America, Politics, American History, Social Change, Civil and Political Rights, Activism, Indigenous Peoples, War, American Revolution, American Government, Working Class, Immigration, Native Americans, Democracy, American Civil War, Social Class, Founding Fathers, Capitalism, American Foreign Policy, Social Studies, Inequality, The Supreme Court, Civil Rights Movement, 20th Century, and Panoramic

Published: HarperCollins on
ISBN: 9780061989834
List price: $13.99
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Leftist drivel.more
Everyone who cares about where we are going should read this book. If you don't care, continue to bury your head in the sand. more
Changed everything.more
Read all 55 reviews


Leftist drivel.more
Everyone who cares about where we are going should read this book. If you don't care, continue to bury your head in the sand. more
Changed everything.more
I admire Zinn for having the courage, as an historian, to allow his work to reflect the changes he experienced in moral perspective after serving in World War II. He has given interviews in which he discusses the difference between killing from a remote distance and then seeing the brutality and suffering that is war. His work, and A People's History is a great example, tries to help us understand a similar problem in perspective: the difference between history writ large, the hagiographies of "great men," and the history of important voices and movements that have been omitted and for the most part dismissed.more
This is a monumental volume, and a crucial contribution to the telling of American history. Zinn affirms, both at the outset and the conclusion of the book, that he has no interest in providing an objective analysis of American history. He is not trying to critically evaluate the arguments of opposing viewpoints, and he makes little room for their own words. While I have some critical things to say on this point below, by and large, it is the real strength of the book.Zinn is primarily interested in telling the stories of oppression and resistance that have been lost in American history. These stories are essential reading for any American citizen. One reason for this is that Zinn largely lets people tell their own story, in their own words. Even if one were ultimately to argue that these views are not representative of the conditions or views of most Americans, it is vital to recognize the form and content of dissent to views we take for granted today. If we do not recognize that dissent, it becomes all too easy to see our own assumptions as self-evident truths, rather than claims which were subject to debate, and perhaps ought to be again.I admire Zinn's explicit statement of his own bias. If he were offering an argument for a comprehensive take on American history (e.g., for the view that he clearly holds, which is that the primary driver of many of the major developments in American history is the economic success of the upper classes), this bias would be a hindrance. We would not have much reason to take the argument seriously if it did not engage with its critics. Zinn's aim, however, is something different. I don't see him as offering that argument. I see him as giving voice to a whole swath of Americans long ignored. His bias is in his selection of voices to cover, and the omissions that are a consequence of these selections. By being explicit about this, he takes the reader's intelligence seriously. Any student of American history has a plethora of other sources taking opposing views, and Zinn provides us with a new set of story and data, and asks us to integrate the stories he tells with the story we have long taken as standard.I was particularly struck by a passage on the Founding Fathers, who are widely regarded with a heroic lens. Look back on their failures, particularly with regard to slavery, we might be tempted to say: "true, but it's part of the culture, and they can hardly be blamed for failing to throw off all of those cultural influences." To this, Zinn writes:"Reformers and radicals, looking discontentedly at history, are often accused of expecting too much from a past political epoch - and sometimes they do. But the point of noting those outside the arc of human rights in the Declaration is not, centuries late and pointlessly, to lay impossible moral burdens on that time. It is to try to understand the way in which the declaration functioned to mobilize certain groups of Americans, ignoring others." (73)It is tempting to read Zinn's book as a moral indictment. While there is some of that going on, it is clear that Zinn's foremost aim is to bring out the systematic ways in which certain groups and certain views have been marginalized and oppressed in American history. We do not need to read him as someone out to "get" certain historical figures. Instead, his aim, which he successfully achieves, is to show that the historical events we have long understood in one light have another side to them, and that other side is integral to understanding the history of oppression and marginalization in American history.The book is at is strongest when giving the oppressed space to tell their own stories. Indeed, the weakest chapters of the book are the two added chapters on the Clinton Presidency and the War on Terror, as those chapters are primarily composed of Zinn himself telling us about the effect of the Clinton and Bush presidencies on the people. While the focus on neglected voices is the greatest strength of the book, it also means that the book does not provide a great deal of integrative or reflective work. For example, Zinn asks an important question: how does a political-economic system perpetuate itself through the generations? Zinn generally is suspicious of the idea (rightly so) that economic motives only work through conscious decision making. But that leaves unanswered the really interesting question - how are they perpetuated? How are the bounds of discourse fixed, and how are they maintained by politicians, journalists and academics? That said, answering this question would take the book more in a different direction. While it is disappointing to this reader that we do not have the space to pursue these interesting questions, the book is stronger for it. Anyone with an interest in American history should know the voices of dissent in that history, whatever one's ultimate political viewpoint on that dissent. Zinn's book is an essential contribution to that aim.more
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