Beth639
Beth639 asked:

I'm planning to read this book in order to understand its what its influence has been and with the many critiques of its subjectivity in mind. Can anyone recommend another book that is either a better example of the "people's history" idea or just a good counterweight to this book? I'm not looking for something equally biased on the other side but rather something along these lines but without the flaws. Thanks

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 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.
Kevin Biased on the other side would be the typical history book written from the governments point of view.
John Zinn's points of view might lean towards the far left, that doesn't mean that they are flawed. Textbooks written on histories are often incomplete and thus may misguide readers.
Brian Dzyak You haven't read Zinn's book yet. How can you know that it has flaws?
Shane Gericke Who says it's flawed or biased? As I recall from reading it years ago, it made a lot of sense.
Kaitlin Marie-Brown Salter That's really hard to say. I can't think of one that's so comprehensive. If you would like to read about the history of black women in the south (for the most part during slavery) I would suggest "Ar'n't I a woman?" by Deborah Gray White. If you would like to take a look a historical look at literature in the US, try a Norton Anthology. "Daughter's of the Earth" is an interesting one about Native American Women. Hope this helps
Paul Bard Paul Johnston's History of the American People is explicitly written to remedy the leftist biases of this book.
Chris De Lasombra The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents America (The Book) Teacher's Edition: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction! Definitely.
William Brown Paul Johnson's "History of the American People" is the best American history I have read, and I read a lot of it. Ironically, he's a Brit!

Zinn's history is ridiculously biased and I would not recommend it to anyone except someone who really knows their history, and then only as an example of how distorted the teaching has been most of our colleges and in government schools.
Phyllis So sad to hear that you planned on reading this book. Have you by any chance read The History of the American People by Paul Johnson? At times it is very difficult to find in print but every now and then it does come out again in hard back, go to Book Depository. Howard Zinn was your typical left-winger who hated the United States and it shows in his writing which is not accurate. Please, look for Paul Johnson's book, The History of the American People and you will see exactly what I mean. Compare the two books. You will be a better person for it.
Kris A Patriot's History of the United States
Gina I recommend Lerone Bennett's Before the Mayflower.
Tamara Suttle "I'm not looking for something equally biased . . . !?" Really? If you have not yet read this book, then might I suggest that you are coming to it with an already skewed view. I personally found it to be eye-opening. As an American woman born in 1960, it was shocking to learn so much of this country's history has been misrepresented or omitted from my own education. The author offers plenty of sources all the way through his book. I suggest you take the time to check out his sources and facts before characterizing it as "biased." We all enter into a book with different lenses . . . But that is different, I think, than assuming the entire work is significantly skewed. You might find A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America by Ronald Takaki an interesting book of the "people's history" though. I would be interested in your comparison of the two.
Greg I started in on Zinn and within the first chapter he contradicts his own stated criterion for writing a proper history: He blithely grants to himself the prerogative of relating a "history" that is far more skewed to his own bizarre, neo-National-Socialist worldview than the ones to which he claims he's providing an "alternative." It's ironic and hypocritical for an advocate of 20th/21st century slavery - i.e., collectivism - to feign outrage at 15th century slavery (also collectivist in nature,) but Zinn is what he is. I will continue to slog through his dreck to the end, taking notes along the way for a more thorough review later.

When that thankless task is finished I will read C. Bradley Thomson's history "America's Revolutionary Mind." What convinced me to read Thompson as an alternative to Zinn was the Amazon review (posted December 9, 2019,) of Thompson's book by bestselling author Robert Bidinotto.

Beth, I recommend giving Thompson's book a read on the basis of that review (I've known Mr. Bidinotto long enough to have complete trust in his judgment,) and synopses that indicate Thompson focuses on the intellectual values that Europeans brought with them, particularly the Aristotelian principles of reality as an absolute and individuality as a metaphysical primary - which would ultimately become the concept of human rights which would end slavery and restrain other collectivist forms (such as the slavery of socialism that Zinn advocates.) Mary Grabar's "Debunking Howard Zinn," though apparently more of a critique than a history in itself, is probably a worthwhile read too.

I would definitely pick up Ernest Cassara's 1975 work "The Enlightenment in America" as well. At 208 pages (for the paperback edition,) it's comparatively short, but it dispenses with the kind of partisan juvenility that Zinn spewed, in favor of a close focus on the specific ideas that inspired America's Founders, which gave rise to America's core principles - which ideas in turn guaranteed of necessity that slavery would be ended, specifically on moral principle. And which ideas of course led humanity from a 30-year life expectancy, candlelight and horse-and-buggy technology, to a tripling of that life expectancy, instantaneous worldwide communication, "miracle" medicine, and interplanetary (now interstellar) travel, in the historical blip of 200 years. So yes, ideas are rather important - not something you would pick up from anything Zinn wrote in this brick.

Another history that looks like a balanced book - which paints the people of hundreds of years ago neither as monolithic heroes or monolithic villains, is Wilfred M. McClay's "Land of Hope." I'm assuming that's a more nuts-and-bolts history where Thompson's is more focused on philosophical essentials and the importance of ideas, so Thompson is probably the more important work of the two.

I'm making these comments without yet having read them, so caveat emptor. But from what I've read of Zinn's hatchet-job thus far, I'm thinking a bright nine-year-old could write a better history book.
Jack Hansen Anything by David Barton who has the best collection of original documents written by our founding fathers' hands. https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.c... He gets a lot of blow-back from the Left because he refutes all of their rewriting of History.
Kyle Elizabeth Wood Granted, I wrote Tillie Lewis: The Tomato Queen but the story was TOLD to me, and I videotaped them, sharing the tale from their point of view. I did leave out the colorful expletives and PC incorrect comments they made as a natural part to their 75 year-old speaking etiquette when feeling safe and relaxed. It is a people's history.

Prejudice is present now and certainly was in the time period of the Tillie book (1896- 1987) I'd sure love to have you tell me what you think.

I also used newspapers, magazines, books, photographs, anything I could find that told the tale of how one amazing woman altered lives of so many people for the better...and was still hated by some.

I am still getting confirmation that I got it right, even the unflattering parts.
Micah I have only just started reading People's History, so I don't know if this is "better" or a counterweight, but another unconventional and interesting take on American History is A Renegade History of the United States. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7...
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