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A People's History of the United States

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  207,507 ratings  ·  6,052 reviews
A classic since its original landmark publication in 1980, Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States is the first scholarly work to tell America’s story from the bottom up - 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. From Columbus to the Revolution ...more
Paperback, 745 pages
Published November 2nd 2010 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published 1980)
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Natalie Fitch From a historian: There is a debate in historiography (the study and writing of history) as to whether the key players in history are the leaders, the…moreFrom a historian: There is a debate in historiography (the study and writing of history) as to whether the key players in history are the leaders, the followers, or the oppressed (that's a really simplistic way for me to put it). If we don't remember their name are they important? For example are both Adolf Hitler and the post-WW1 German people worth studying? They were interdependent; some argue that Germany would not have fallen for such a destructive party if it weren't for their charismatic leader, but Hitler would have never been elected without such a following. There are thousands of books on Hitler, but one of my favorites about the people is Christopher Browning's Ordinary Men, which looks at the specific men who executed mass killings of Jews. They were truly ordinary, but Hitler couldn't have done it without them. Another example is Jill Lepore's Book of Ages, which is a narrative based on the life of Jane Franklin (Benjamin Franklin's sister). It lays out the juxtaposing lives of the famous printer who discovered electricity and his domesticated housewife of a sister who just wants to learn to read. Zinn's work aims to uncover the story of the oppressed; people who were just as much Americans as JFK and Elvis, but were oppressed by their government. I would argue that they are just as important to the history of the United States as any President. Without someone to step on, no group would flourish.(less)
Anne Cupero No one wants to believe how truly powerless they are. I was raised to love everything about America and after living abroad for a short time, found ou…moreNo one wants to believe how truly powerless they are. I was raised to love everything about America and after living abroad for a short time, found out that not everything is wonderful. Not EVERYTHING ABOUT ANYTHING is wonderful. That is a trite, simple answer. We, as a country, have done so many things wrong, and we are not inclined to admit any of it. I feel cheated, truly cheated, that I was not taught SO MANY THINGS about the world, or taught outright lies. Now, in my fifties, I am trying to read all I can to fix that. (less)

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Mike (the Paladin)
Nov 10, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: political
Update: I took this out of the library to attempt a 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
Michael Finocchiaro
This is one of the most eye-opening books I have ever read. The late Howard Zinn takes off the filters with which American history is taught in schools and takes an unflinching look at how the US has not been the benevolent protector of democracy that propaganda would like us to believe. Not that the founding principles were wrong - they were ideal then and with some modifications re slavery and women's rights are still relevant today - but American domestic and foreign policy has been held host ...more
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
Jun 12, 2007 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
Aug 11, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Someone who hates America, success, and all thats right with the world

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
May 28, 2015 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
Dec 28, 2010 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
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
Roy Lotz
In a country famous for its historical ignorance, Howard Zinn sold two million copies of a 700-page history book. In a country famous for its allergy to the left, Howard Zinn wrote a best-seller from a staunchly left-wing perspective. Every evaluation of his book must begin and end with this achievement. Whatever you like or dislike about Zinn, clearly he did something right.

As you set out to judge this book, you must first decide whether it is a work of inquiry or of advocacy. This distinctio
Aug 10, 2014 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 - so if you're new to all this, get ready to be adorable. 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 b
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn is a 2005 Harper Perennial Modern Classics publication.

I admit, up front, that this my first go at this book. I vaguely remember some controversy surrounding a history book that exposed the darker side of American History, and whether or not it belonged next to traditional history text in schools. However, this book came along after I graduated from high school, having been published in 1980, to the best of my knowledge, and my own children
``Laurie Henderson
If only all of us could be as perfect as Howard Zinn! Then we'd be able to get up on our high horse and look down our nose at all the miserable humanity in the world that have achieved more than he has. ...more
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 materials as it only
Tom Quinn
Sep 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had to wait literally two years for this book to become available at my local library. Very encouraging to see this rise of civic responsibility in my community. Every U.S. citizen owes it to the country to understand our history, and few sources can compare to Zinn's impressive A to Z. It's about as far from an impartial account as I can imagine, and with good reason: Zinn wants to highlight the history of the U.S. not through a few heroic individuals but rather the larger body of its citizen ...more
Aug 05, 2007 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
Mar 27, 2008 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
Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
In this epic tome, Howard Zinn seeks to look at the history of the United States through new eyes. So many historians, and even more textbooks, have a traditional view of American progress throughout the centuries, though Zinn seeks to examine it all through the eyes of the people who were part of it. Though many of these people might have been left out of the limelight, this view of American history enriches the already hearty dialogue about progress and regression under the banner of America, ...more
Sep 29, 2007 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
Jun 30, 2008 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
Mar 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
This book should be required reading in high school.

I finally get it. The rich always want to get richer at the expense of the poor. The object of the game is always control. If you want certain rights or freedom you always have to fight for them because they are not going to give them out of the goodness of their hearts. And that is history in a nut shell.
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this for my American History course in college. Really enjoyed it!

Jan 20, 2008 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
P.J. Sullivan
Sep 29, 2009 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
Larry Bassett
Jun 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, audio, nonfiction
An essential book for your home library for mind expansion and reference. I have added a lot of notes to this book to guide you from chapter to chapter in case you have particular areas of interest that you do not want to miss. I have owned a copy of this book a long time and have never read it from Cover to cover. I finally got a copy of the audible version and that helped me get through the entire book. If you are having that same problem I urge you to go immediately to chapters 25 and 26. I w ...more
Oct 09, 2007 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. ...more
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
Feb 17, 2011 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
Jan 24, 2008 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
Ryan A
Jul 25, 2007 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. ...more
Sam Sanford
Dec 05, 2007 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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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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