Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Renegade History of the United States” as Want to Read:
A Renegade History of the United States
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Renegade History of the United States

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  1,422 ratings  ·  210 reviews
This provocative perspective on Americas history claims that the countrys personality was defined not by the ideals of the elites and intellectuals, but by those who throughout  have lived on the fringes of society historyslaves, immigrants, gangsters, and others who challenged the conventions of their day.

Raucous, profane, and thrillingly original, Thaddeus Russells A
Paperback, 400 pages
Published July 5th 2011 by Free Press (first published 2010)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Renegade History of the United States, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Conner Hartline
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.80  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,422 ratings  ·  210 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of A Renegade History of the United States
Dec 28, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Thaddeus Russell is not so much a historian as he is a contrarian. Whatever you think you know, he disagrees. That does not mean that he doesn't make some interesting points, but his thinking is so fuzzy, his examples so selective, and his statements so unsubstantiated, that it is a stretch to take this book seriously as a history.

His thesis, loosely defined, is that renegades are responsible for most freedoms in the United States because whatever the law says, renegades will disregard and
Aug 10, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll, according to Thaddeus Russell, author of A Renegade History of the United States are even more American than mom and apple pie.

Perhaps more accurately to the theme of this book is Well behaved women rarely make history a quote often erroneously attributed to Marilyn Monroe but was actually said by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a Harvard professor. Which makes this a good quote to illustrate this book also because many times in history what we have been taught and
Jan 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this revisionist history of personal freedom in the U.S., Thaddeus Russell poses some interesting arguments about our view of history and its "heroes" of personal freedom. Russell proposes that our Founding Fathers wanted to take away liberties; that abolitionists were motivated by a desire to make slaves work harder; that the women's rights movements owes most of its progress to Wild West madams; and that the only way for immigrants to assimilate into American society was to give up the ...more
Michael Malice
Jun 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Could not recommend this any higher
Apr 01, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
First, I did enjoy the writing style. However, passing this book off as nonfiction is a far stretch. There is not a single reference that you can track. Talk about plagiarism. And this, from a guy who professes to be a History teacher. He puts the n-word in parenthesis as if it is a direct quote at least everything other page. I think that one of his primary goals was to see exactly how many times he could write racial epithets directed at black people and get away with it.

What I expected was a
David Quijano
Feb 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first learned about A Renegade History while listening to the Michael Medved show. The author was promoting his book and talked about the chapter on slavery. It seemed like an interesting, revisionist take and I decided I would read it. Six years later, I finally got around to it and I wish I read it earlier.

The basic premise of A Renegade History is that, historically, it was often unwitting scumbags or renegades who pioneered many of the freedoms we cherish today.

I wasn't really sure what
Nov 15, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Russell's unique thesis is that "bad" Americans are the ones who should be our national heroes because they helped secure freedoms that we all now get to enjoy. By freedom he mostly means having fun - partying, not working, and enjoying (nonmarital) sex. The enemies of fun are those who want to turn bad Americans into respectable and hardworking citizens - the founding fathers, for starters, and basically white middle class Protestants. The book is frustrating on a number of fronts. Russell is a ...more
Kathy Davie
Aug 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
A look at what makes America great, how the discontented, the criminal, the bad citizens changed this country. Yep, Russell thinks history has expended too much time on the good people settlers, abolitionists, capitalists, suffragists, conservatives and not enough on prostitutes, pirates, gangsters, and slaves who set the stage for change.

Just to warn you, it is a wee bit on the long side, but it truly only touches on bits here and there.

My Take
I don't buy all of Russell's premise, but I can
Feb 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing book that -- even if you hate history -- will make you enjoy it. In fact, if this was the kind of history we were taught in school, we might have actually fought for places in the class.

Warning though: having read this book, you'll never again see the "founding fathers", the first Americans, prostitutes before the 1900s, pirates, slaves, working people and unions, people of irish-ancestry, people of african-ancestry, people of italian-ancestry, jewish people, organized crime,
Dec 03, 2016 rated it did not like it
Didn't finish. I gave it the ol' college try. I love history. I loved A People's History of the United States, but the author's writing is condescending and douchey. The argument that free white workers somehow had a worse life than slaves or that slaves had freedoms that white people didn't - no. just no. No. .... no.
Dec 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Thaddeus Russell upholds the gifts of the slackers, carousers, 'deviants' and other residents of society's underbelly in this rollicking tour of American History that is unlike anything most of us experienced in our formal schooling on the subject. This is a book I would like to put into the hands of certain people who constantly bemoan the downfall of contemporary civilization and pine for the 'good old days'.

I am an avid reader of the news...and that would be the historic news. I frequent our
Apr 07, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great and engrossing book on many levels. However, I felt the chapter on slavery did not take nearly enough factors into consideration concerning the psychology of ex slaves and the conditions they endured. I understand that the point Russell was making about how ex slaves after the war were conditioned by the government against bigamy and encouraged deeply towards the rigid moral sexual codes of the day and that they associated slavery with a freer time of sexual exploration, but I felt that ...more
Very interesting and definitely politically incorrect revisions to the American history typically taught in schools. The list of renegades starts with "drunkards, laggards, prostitutes, pirates, and other heroes of the American revolution." No great surprises there. After the civil war, the freed slaves were expected to adopt the American work ethic and work from dawn to dusk 7 days a week. Many of them said they preferred slavery, which gave them freedom from responsibility. Many white ...more
Jun 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the more mind-blowing books I've ever read. Essentially, what it does is argue that throughout US history, progress has been driven by people who would generally be viewed as degeneratesnot unlike how, for example, a lot of technological developments have been driven by people trying to find new ways to consume pr0n.

Aside from whatever aversion one might have to reading about drunks, prostitutes and what have you (positive portrayals, no less), it's likely that almost anyone would be
Oliver Bateman
Apr 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Bored with the usual US survey texts and want a cultural history-focused account that you can argue with? Here you go. With the exception of the civil rights chapter, about which Russell has done some solid work of his own, it's mostly a reimagining of his U.S. history comps list. Sure, he plays fast and loose with examples--his reliance on 70s-era comparative work to draw parallels between the New Deal and European fascism is downright risible--but the book's readable as hell, privileges ...more
Jun 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really revealing exploration which creates many questions for the conventionally educated. 'We have met the enemy and it is us'. But read this after you have read 'The People's History of the United States' by Howard Zinn'. This book gives me hope for survival against our current right wing advocates, although, reaching back into our history demonstrates a stunning sameness to the past. It seems to me that so many negative comments show a fear to 'question authority'.
Scott Meaney
Should have been named "Big, If True: The Book."

It's got tons of information, plenty that seems possible or even likely... all ruined by a complete lack of sources and footnotes. Russell makes wild, interesting claims without doing the necessary work to build any of this case.

I would not be surprised to learn that maybe 40% of this book is dead on accurate. But which 40%? Who knows? What a frustrating book.

"All of you, you think there's someone just gonna drop money on you? Money they could use? ...well, there ain't people like that! There's just people like me!" (Jayne Cobb, Firefly )

In A People's History of the United States, Howard Zinn delivered the hitherto-untold story of the common man, the poor and oppressed, fighting nobly for equality, liberty, and justice. Chumps! Thaddaeus Russell's A Renegade History is a celebration of the unruly side of the common man, a tribute to those who just
Aug 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a strange book, with something to repel readers of all major political persuasions. By "renegades" Russell means uncivilized people: hedonists; the irresponsible, undisciplined, and impulsive; low-income lovers of luxury, fashion and leisure; the frivolous and lazy; the over-indulgers; the selfish and criminal, the anti-ant grasshoppers. This is a popular, as opposed to scholarly, history of the USA (no footnotes, few original sources), and it presents more a perspective than it does an ...more
Kip Williams
Aug 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Russell presents a "hidden" side of history, and puts forth the argument that we wouldn't have the society we have today, much less our sense of independence without the people that are so consistently labeled outlaw, renegade, or wear a virtual "badge", by dint of who they are and how they live their lives that puts them outside of "normal" or "nice" society's boundaries. Russell does a thorough decade by decade examination, starting in pre-Revolutionary times, of the role that people, classes ...more
This is a fascinating book and a really shocking piece of revionist history at times, but it's getting a middling review from me because it just wasn't convincing. Te author consistently draws conclusions that I don't think are warranted by the evidence, does not dig very deep or think very deeply about certain conclusions and relies way too heavily on correlation and coincidence instead of providing context. A couple of chapters spring instantly to mind - his comparison of New Deal era politics ...more
Though there are a few points that I question, overall this is a great look back at American history focused upon the little known nor talked about influences of the power that the renegades of our culture have had in determining the fate of the nation.

I am history buff and known as the master of useless trivia, and I walked away from this read enriched with a lot of facts that I had never known. The book is fascinating and is well researched and footnoted.

Any fan of history will love this
Dec 30, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
While the facts in this book were interesting, something about the way they were presented rubbed me the wrong way. I think I expected more analysis from a book with that sort of title, when what little analysis there was was shallow and meandering. I suppose it's a good read if you're not interested in the little details, but I am (especially with history I already know so well!), so for me, it wasn't too great. I really did not like the way he sidelined women's contributions throughout the ...more
Aug 29, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to back this, but ultimately I couldn't get past the sloppy scholarship, and I had to put it down two or three chapters in. He didn't footnote or credit pretty much anything he wrote, and he made a lot of generalizations without providing any sourcing for them. I felt like I couldn't trust it. It read like an overenthusiastic college student's dissertation, and that's not what I want from my counternarrative history. You have to be more, not less, rigorous if you want to put that ...more
Tisha Oehmen
Mar 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Provocative to say the least. I'm not sure I buy 80% of of the opinions in the book, nonetheless, it certainly makes you think about the subtle (and overt) influences that have (and continue to) shape our culture today. Certainly book to open your mind, and invite you into an ongoing discussion with the author about his point of view. If nothing else, it will be a book that sticks with me for a while as I see and experience different elements in our social fabric today.
I'm inspired to go look up some of Russell's sources, as well as researching more of his subjects in depth. He makes minority history into something more nuanced than I'd expected, and I want to know more, especially about African-American history. Russell is white; I'd like to read some black history books written by African-Americans. Overall this book was very thought-provoking, and while I was left with more questions than answers, I greatly enjoyed it and want to learn more.
Feb 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book should be assigned reading for every high school student in a public school. Gore Vidal once said we live in the United States of Amnesia, Thaddeus Russell's book hammers that home. The mainstream historical narrative is closer to a fairytale than an accurate recounting of the why and wherefore of America's story.
Matthew S
No sourcing, limited scholarship. Breaks basically the only remaining golden rule of academia which is: Do not happen upon a theory and then become blind to all evidence except that which supports it.

I like the idea. I hate the execution.
Chris Kirkham
Apr 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This books will make you constantly google things that sound like they couldn't possibly be true, only to find that the history of the United States is actually this bizarre and horrifying.
Call Me Cordelia
You think you know American history? Read this book and think again!
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The New Right: A Journey to the Fringe of American Politics
  • Dear Reader: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Kim Jong Il
  • Anatomy of the State
  • The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom
  • 1917: Vladimir Lenin, Woodrow Wilson, and the Year that Created the Modern Age
  • Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire
  • The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History
  • Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest & Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics
  • Anarchism and Other Essays
  • Democracy: The God That Failed
  • Black Rednecks and White Liberals
  • Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century
  • Fool's Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan
  • Defending the Undefendable
  • Ego and Hubris: The Michael Malice Story
  • For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto
  • Intellectuals and Society
  • The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government
See similar books…

Related Articles

There is nothing like reading a history or biography book and being so completely transported to another time and place that you find...
67 likes · 25 comments
“...the fight that political philosophers have always identified as the central conflict in human history: that between the individual and society. Thus far, scholars have shown little interest in finding this conflict in American history...” 2 likes
“This new generation of Italian American entertainers shared Sinatra’s view of the new dance music that emerged in the 1950s. “Rock-and-roll is the most brutal, ugly, desperate, vicious form of expression it has been my misfortune to hear,” Sinatra told Congress in 1958. “Rock-and-roll smells phony and false. It is sung, played, and written for the most part by cretinous goons, and by means of its almost imbecilic reiteration, and sly, lewd—in plain fact, dirty—lyrics … it manages to be the martial music of every sideburned delinquent on the face of the earth.” In response to the raw, driving sexuality of black-influenced rock, young Italian American men in New York and Philadelphia did to the new music what Sinatra and his generation had done to jazz. A style combining smooth vocal harmonies, romantic lyrics, and a stationary stage presence, doo-wop was invented in the 1940s by black youth on street corners, but it shot to the top of the pop charts in the late 1950s when Italian Americans adopted it as their own—just as most African American performers moved toward “soul music.” From 1958, when Dion (DiMucci) and the Belmonts placed several songs on the pop charts, until the “British Invasion” of 1964, Italian American doo-wop groups dominated American popular music. All wearing conservative suits and exuding a benign romanticism, the Capris, the Elegants, the Mystics, the Duprees, the Del-Satins, the Four Jays, the Essentials, Randy and the Rainbows, and Vito & the Salutations declared the arrival of Italians into American civilization. During the rise of doo-wop and Frank Rizzo, Malcolm X mocked the newly white Italians. “No Italian will ever jump up in my face and start putting bad mouth on me,” he said, “because I know his history. I tell him when you’re talking about me you’re talking about your pappy, your father. He knows his history. He knows how he got that color.” Though fewer and fewer Italian Americans know the history of which Malcolm X spoke, some have reenacted it.” 0 likes
More quotes…