American History Book Reviews :
A People's History of the United States :
1492 to the Present
, by Howard Zinn

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          Howard Zinn was influenced by the 1960s transformation of social values, and based his People's History on "inclusion." What some have called "the Great Man theory of history" is definitely out. This book is not primarily the story of Presidents, Army Generals, and Industrialists. It observes history from the perspectives of women, men, labor, Native Americans, African Americans, antiwar movements, and other population groups.

          A People's History of the United States was first published in 1980, but the newly revised edition goes up to the events of the Clinton administration.

          The book begins with the first mythological figure of United States history, Christopher Columbus. The great explorer kidnapped native people of Caribbean island of Hispaniola, tortured and killed some of them, and took others in chains back to Spain. This was celebrated in the U.S. with a national holiday.

          The founders of the U.S. government constructed the new republic in such a way as to preserve the power of the elite, and suppress rebellion by the poor and disenfranchised. Most reformers, all the way up to modern liberals, have not challenged the fundamental political and economic structures or institutions.

          Whenever government has relieved poverty, given equal rights to minorities, or made other progressive changes, it has done so only in response to organized popular protest movements. The changes were opposed for decades by elite groups, and that opposition to reform has been frequently funded by profit-motivated businesses.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
A People's History of the United States :
1492 to the Present , by Howard Zinn
Based on the HarperPerennial edition
1980, Revised 1995, paperback, 675 pages

1.  Columbus, the Indians, and
      Human Progress			  1
2.  Drawing the Color Line		  23
3.  Persons of Mean and Vile Condition	  39
4.  Tyranny is Tyranny			  59
5.  A Kind of Revolution		  76
6.  The Intimately Oppressed		  102
7.  As Long as Grass Grows or Water Runs  124
8.  We Take Nothing by Conquest,
      Thank God 			  147
9.  Slavery Without Submission,
      Emancipation Without Freedom	  167
10. The Other Civil War 		  206
11. Robber Barons and Rebels		  247
12. The Empire and the People		  290
13. The Socialist Challenge		  314
14. War is the Health of the State	  350
15. Self-Help in Hard Times		  368
16. A People's War?                       398
17. 'Or Does It Explode?'                 435
18. The Impossible Victory : Vietnam	  460
19. Surprises				  493
20. The Seventies : Under Control?	  529
21. Carter - Reagan - Bush :
      The Bipartisan Consensus		  551
22. The Unreported Resistance		  589
23. The Coming Revolt of the Guards	  618

Afterward: On the Clinton Presidency	  629
Bibliography				  635
Index					  655

          Schools indoctrinate us. Students should be aware and concerned that "dangerous" facts have been deleted from mainstream history education, for example, that Helen Keller was a revolutionary socialist, or that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor only after the United States cut off the supply of oil to Japan. Our school books didn't tell us that Grover Cleveland, who established Labor Day as a national holiday, was the same President who sent federal troops to massacre peacefully picketing workers.

          The corporate-owned news media indoctrinate us as well. We are frequently made aware of every dubious signal of "economic recovery" and "upswing", but we are not told how the wealth is distributed. While the majority of the people bear economic insecurity, most of society's wealth is sharply concentrated in the hands of the few. The annual income of the richest one percent of the people is the same as the annual income of the bottom ninety percent of the people.

          Howard Zinn says he doesn't want to "practice safe history."

          It is an easily readable book, and does not use an "academic" style.

          Howard Zinn began teaching history in 1956. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and now lives in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. At the age of 18 he worked in a shipyard and became an activist in union organization. He is a World War II veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and now has moral reflection about his role in bombing missions over European villages. Zinn was a part of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.


Excerpt from Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States

(a reply to Henry Kissinger's assertion that "History is the memory of states"

My viewpoint, in telling the history of the United States, is different: that we must not accept the memory of states as our own. Nations are not communities and never have been. The history of any country, presented as the history of a family, conceals fierce conflicts of interest (sometimes exploding, most often repressed) between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex. And in such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners.


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