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A People's History of the United States: 1492-Present

4.07  ·  Rating Details ·  131,708 Ratings  ·  4,147 Reviews
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, the working poor, and immigrant laborers. Zinn shows that many of our country's greatest battles were carried out at the grassroots level, against bloody resistance.
Paperback, 729 pages
Published April 1st 2003 by Harper Perennial (first published 1980)
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Mike (the Paladin)
Update: I took this out of the library to attempt a reread...no changes, wanted to be fair. Still don't care for it. As noted, no changes.


Oh my goodness aren't we brave to tell (re-tell) American history this way? "You've been lied to and only I have the strength of character to tell you about it"

Yeah, yeah, yeah I've heard it all before. In C.S. Lewis' Great Divorce there's a high churchman of the Church of England who's going on about how brave he was to take a secular stand and renouncing "t
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J.G. Keely
Howard Zinn saw a problem in the world, a great bias in our understanding of history, a history written by the winners--by tyrants and industrial magnates and warmongers--and so he did something about it: he created an equally flawed and opposed bias, just as carefully constructed to prop up his own one-sided conclusion, in an act which always calls to my mind Bob Dylan's line:
"In a soldier's stance, I aimed my hand. At the mongrel dogs who teach. Fearing not that I'd become my enemy. In the in
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Billy
Aug 11, 2007 Billy rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Someone who hates America, success, and all thats right with the world
DO NOT READ THIS BOOK! EVER! BURN IT! HOWARD ZINN SHOULD BE DRAWN AND QUARTERED IN A PUBLIC FORUM!!!

Seriously though, when I describe my highschool sophomore year history class I generally use the following sentence, "The theme of sophomore year history was: White people - bad, the downtrodden - good." Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" was our textbook. I HATE THIS BOOK! His basic thesis is that America was built on the blood and suffering of the poor. And while this is def
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Megan
Jun 12, 2007 Megan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all Americans
I finally finished this after slogging through it for two weeks, and it was definitely worth it. Besides being a good refresher in U.S. history, particularly from a non-nationalist perspective, I learned a lot about people's movements, and the ways that people (as opposed to 'the great men of history') have created change in our country.

It's good to know that some of what Zinn covers in A People's History, even though unorthodox at the time he wrote it, has already filtered into public education
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Warwick
May 28, 2015 Warwick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

In 1846, in Concord, Massachusetts, the writer Henry David Thoreau ran into a tax collector called Sam Staples, who asked for his poll tax. Thoreau declined to pay, refusing – he said – to contribute to what he regarded as the government's illegal war against Mexico. He was put in prison.

When Emerson visited Thoreau in jail and asked, ‘What are you doing in there?’ it was reported that Thoreau replied, ‘What are you doing out there?’


Howard Zinn is not in jail (he's dead), but the message to read
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Jeffrey
Actually, if you're even somewhat familiar with American History (and I'm not talking about what you learned in your politically correct high school readers, even though in recent years more of the 'bad stuff' is leaking out to our high school students), there's nothing new here. So why are so many upset by Zinn? Most say they are bothered by Zinn's subjectivity (but who cares? after all, it's his book) and what some say is his "whining" tone. Hey, this will help you build your critical thinking ...more
Diane
I loved this so much that I'm going to resort to hyperbole: If you read only one book about American history, let it be this one.

This is not a typical history book. Instead of telling the stories of the victors, Howard Zinn focused on those who have been oppressed in the United States. The minorities. The protesters. The downtrodden.

In the preface to the updated edition about the Twentieth Century, Zinn wrote: "It is obvious in the very first pages of the larger People's History, when I tell ab
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Jim
As a reference or an additional information source, this isn't terrible (4 stars). It really does hit a lot of high points & some that other histories have left out. The writing is good. While dry, it is readable & conveys a lot of information. My copy is an old one that only goes through the Vietnam war. He has updated versions to 2003, I believe.

It is NOT a balanced view of our history & is proposed reading for schools (minus 1 star). It shouldn't be unless read with other material
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Michael
Dec 28, 2010 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1980s, history
The ratings on this book tend to be polarized here on Goodreads, with lots of people giving it 5 or 4 stars, and quite a few giving it 1. This is because this book is upfront about where it stands politically: Howard Zinn runs with the notion that poor people tend to be exploited by rich ones. (GASP!) If you agree with this general human tendency, yet STILL believe we should teach the NERFed version of American History--where Columbus is a swell fella, the Native Americans were using the land wr ...more
Carlton
Aug 05, 2007 Carlton added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Read cautiously
I don't know why teachers would make kids read a book about America written by someone with so little clarity. In the World According to Zinn, Americans (especially THE RICH ) are responsible for all the bad things that have happened in the last 2 centuries.If you believe as he does that America has been a net bad for the world, then by all means read this book. Hell, memorize it. If you believe that America has been a net good in the world, then read it so you can understand the damage it has d ...more
Emily
Mar 27, 2008 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: America haters
Shelves: booksofthepast
People who don't approve of Zinn's equal opportunity perspective of history love to call him an America hater. I'm sure that George W. Bush would say that he's an enemy of freedom. But the thing that I love so much about Zinn and this book is his consistent ability to portray the United States (as defined by its history) as so much more than a static, monolitichly motivated country. Traditional approaches to history tell a student that our country was founded by white Christian men with lots of ...more
Andrew
Jan 20, 2008 Andrew rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A well written, but severely flawed historical work.
It reads more like sociology than history, with Zinn's concern for social groups and people's movements. Now, at a certain point, those areas with overlap, but for the most part he seems less concerned with getting to a historical truth than preaching a message. At that point, one has to wonder how he deals with contradictory evidence and conflicting opinions. Does he grapple with them and try to sift through all the available evidence? Or does
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John
Sep 29, 2007 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
History as it's told in our high school history textbooks is history that focuses on American leaders, whether political, military, or business. Zinn argues convincingly that we need also to see history as it happened to "the people," and that this perspective is by no means synonymous with that of America's elites. In fact, the official line in America's history and politics has been that America is basically one big middle class. Certainly, America long had a larger middle class than most of t ...more
Brian
Jun 30, 2008 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Nobody likes to look in the mirror and see a big zit. Zinn makes us do so and a lot of people don't like that (it's not polite to point out zits). America has seen itself as perfect for a long time and we are taught that all the way from grade school through college (and every day on Fox News). People say Zinn blames America for everything. Honestly the bull shit has been so steeped the other way for so long, it forced his hand to go over the top in pointing our our flaws. The truth is probably
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Brian
Oct 09, 2007 Brian rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Why write a history of the United States when you know it is one-sided and basically propaganda? I understand his stated reasons for writing the book but I think the truth is better than "this is propaganda to fight mainstream history that I think is propaganda." Any one-sided historical accounts are not worth people's time and knowingly writing one is a waste of time. The truth remains obscured.
P.J. Sullivan
Sep 29, 2009 P.J. Sullivan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: history
History is about power, said Eugen Weber. This one is about the powerless majority, the humble members of society. The farmers, mechanics, laborers. The Native Americans dispossessed of their land. The slaves dispossessed of their liberty. The women and children, the rent payers, the downtrodden. This is the flip side of the elitist history you learned in school. It is not about kings or presidents, founding fathers or saviors or statesmen. It is "disrespectful of governments and respectful of p ...more
Ryan A
Jul 25, 2007 Ryan A rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
"Zinn will blow your hair back." Thanks Matt Damon. This book was long, drawn out and boring. Do I really care to learn about every single union leader and strike in America? No, but most U.S. History Teachers think you do. Do yourself a favor, pick an interesting sentence in the introduction and write a paper about that. Save yourself a lot of trouble.
Mischenko
Feb 18, 2017 Mischenko rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this for my American History course in college. Really enjoyed it!

4****
Jake
Feb 17, 2011 Jake rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
You can't review Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" without first declaring your own political bias, so here's a brief summary of mine:

I grew up in a Communist-sympathizing household in Park Slope, that most liberal of all left-leaning Brooklyn neighborhoods. My father had a clear, if sometimes simplistic world-view: the rich were evil, and whatever side of an issue they were on, good people should be on the other side. Like most children, I rebelled, and by college, my poli
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Alex
Aug 10, 2014 Alex rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014, rth-lifetime
A People's History's 750 pages can be boiled down to two statements:

1) America sucks;
2) The only way to change it is to organize.

Both of these things are true, and Zinn makes his case with comprehensive thunder. The extermination of Native Americans; the genocide of slavery; the systematic fight against civil rights, socialist and labor movements; all the way up to the horrors of Vietnam, Zinn shows us how America's interests have always been big business at the expense of the people. "To give p
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Cedar
Jul 19, 2007 Cedar rated it it was ok
One of the most poorly written pieces of propaganda I've ever had the misfortune to read. I'll give it this: it filled in a few blindspots in my knowledge of history. There were several major events that I could swear I never learned about in history classes. (Perhaps because my high school history teacher was also the football coach and gave extra credit on exams for guessing the point spread of the upcoming game, but that's another story.) Other than that, reading this book was like pulling te ...more
Clif Hostetler
Apr 17, 2015 Clif Hostetler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This history has details that are skipped over by most historians. This is a history from the viewpoint of the powerless who are viewed as the losers from the standpoint of the winners (i.e the one's who write history). Howard Zinn pretty well summarizes the perspective from which he writes this history as follows:
"I prefer to tell the story of the discovery of America from the viewpoint of the Arawak, of the Constitution from the stand point of the slaves, of Andrew Jackson as seen by the Chero
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Sam Sanford
Dec 05, 2007 Sam Sanford rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Do you think the U.S. government's domination by business interests and the wealthy is a relatively recent development? Think the founding fathers would be appalled by the current situation? Think Republicans are responsible for tax cuts for the rich? Think Democrats are the party of the working class? Think JFK was a pretty good guy? Think U.S. involvementin WWII was morally motivated?
If you want to find out why you're wrong about all these things, if you want clear evidence that our government
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Ryan
Jun 09, 2007 Ryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book for my AP United States History class required summer reading. I borrowed/recieved it from a friend who had a copy and had taken the class already. A hefty little read it appeared far to borish and complex--a weeks long read at least, and most likely I felt I'd end up trudging through the book word by word without an soul or passion for the text. Begrudgedly I opened up the book and began to run my eyes across the first few sentences. I was completely aghast at the bitter-tone, ...more
Stephen
0.5 to 1.0 stars. The quintessential history book for American's who hate America. My biggest problem with this book is not its existence but that it is too often introduced to young people, not as an alternative viewpoint, but as a "primary" guide to American history. As someone who encourages free and open debate and believes America's greatest virtue is the ability of its people to criticize its leaders and speak freely about all issues, I think it is important to have books like this, inaccu ...more
Rachel
Sep 26, 2007 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book taught me more about U.S. history than any class I ever took. I was never interested in history in school. Maybe I was just a budding socialist predisposed to reject the presidents-and-wars perspective. Maybe it was just boring.

Zinn's history is more accurate to what was actually going on than the textbooks are, and much more interesting. Viewing U.S. history as a struggle to gain and keep power on the part of the very rich, I began to see parallels with our own time, time-tested tric
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Krista
Jan 24, 2008 Krista rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a history book intended to tell the stories that don't get told. It isn't centered around typical heroes or presidents or nationalistic jingoism. It tries to tell the "people's history"

Yeah, it's biased. Zinn admits as much.

Yeah, it's negative. Zinn admits as much.

And, yeah, if it's the only history you read, you come away with one viewpoint and, perhaps, a bit of bile in your mouth. But it shouldn't be the only history you read. It should be the history that helps balance the prevalent
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sydney
May 24, 2007 sydney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: historians, teachers, curious americans
Holy pignolia, this took me a long time to read.

But it was worth it. Zinn takes you from Columbus's arrival in North America all the way up to the crazy (read: corrupt) 2000 presidential election, highlighting the stories that don't normally get told in history textbooks or mainstream media. It's a "people's history," so he tells Vietnam from the POV of the protesters, industrialism from the workers, slavery from the slaves, etc. I learned a lot of new (and disturbing) aspects of American histo
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Blake
Oct 24, 2008 Blake rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Only someone who has a critical enough eye to see through Zinn's garbage
This book is a farce. While I think some of chapters on early American history have value, the closer the book gets to your lifetime the more you scratch your head and ask WTF. Reading Mr. Zinn's version of American history would lead you to believe that the United States of America is the most cruel, inhuman, and evil place on the planet. It has been so long since I had this one forced down my throat in high school, but what I recall most vividly was discussing the chapters on Vietnam in class. ...more
Hannah
Sep 16, 2015 Hannah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5 Stars - Superb book, one of my all time favorites.

I've been meaning to read this for years and I am so glad I finally did! I knew from the cover that I would probably like this book because my favorite historian, Eric Foner, is quoted and gives a glowing review. This is a nice, hefty book and since it is a comprehensive history of the U.S., from what are probably considered non-traditional viewpoints, one might assume it's dry. However it is not. Zinn is able to describe historical events, mo
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1899
Howard Zinn was a historian, playwright, and social activist. He was a shipyard worker and a bombardier with the U.S. Army Air Force in Europe during the Second World War before he went to college under the GI Bill and received his Ph.D. from Columbia University.

Zinn taught at Spelman College and Boston University, and was a visiting professor at the University of Paris and the University of Bolo
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More about Howard Zinn...

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“The memory of oppressed people is one thing that cannot be taken away, and for such people, with such memories, revolt is always an inch below the surface.” 152 likes
“The cry of the poor is is not always just, but if you don't listen to it, you will never know what justice is.” 135 likes
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