A People’s History of the United States

A People’s History of the United States: 1492 – Present by Howard Zinn, 3/5

A People’s History looks at the U.S.A.’s track record of human rights and the less-than-admirable motivations behind many important government and corporate policies.  This is the most admittedly biased and aggressively depressing book I have ever enjoyed.  While I would prefer to read a logical, unbiased, rigourously truthful history book, I suspect that no such thing exists, in which case, I appreciate Zinn’s efforts to provide a counterweight to the highly sanitized, equally biased, and deceptively simplistic versions of history that are so prevalent.

I appreciated Zinn’s copious primary source quotations, however, the general lack of citation left me feeling unsettled, helpless and manipulated.  In my opinion, the scholarly quality of the book dropped off noticeably in the last quarter of the book (starting at the 19th chapter), where the author started to make laughably illogical and inconsistent statements of political bias, taking a tone that is not apparent earlier in the book and creates a particularly depressing air.  For example, he first calls traditional family structure “that most subtle and complex of prisons” (514), but later decries “family disarray” (563).  While outspokenly anti-Capitalist, he fails to point out a single country that does socialism right, by his standards.  Similarly, he is anti-Republican, but disapproves of all the major Democratic politicians he mentions (explaining their failures in a rather weasley way – by blaming their actions on them trying to please the Republicans).  Despite these annoyances, I found much to agree with in the book and hopefully was able to use it to gain a more realistic and unbiased view of our history.

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