people’s histories

i’ve been thinking of writing a review/summary of howard zinn’s “a people’s history of the united states”, then realised the wikipedia wiki does a much better job than i could.

what i really like about the book is the perspective-that one need not swallow the ‘dominant’ reading of history (or anything), especially when it is primarily concerned with legitimising, romanticising and reinforcing systems and structures of power. dr. zinn, by his own admission, is not impartial, and looks at american history through the lenses of class conflict. a very fascinating, if often depressing read; though in a speech about the book, zinn says that rather than wasting anger on the past, the point of the book is to throw light on what is happening now, and to draw strength from other people’s stories of resistance.

among other iconoclasms, the book tears at wars one still tends to see as “good”-the american war of independence, the american civil war and world war II. his critique of the motives behind these (and other) wars is a potent background for our critiques of wars today. a rather enlightening read, and strangely (for a history book) one that gives you hope for the future.

the most powerful thing i take away from this book, however, is an attitude; best summed in this quote, “Behind every fact presented to the world-by a teacher, a writer, anyone-is a judgment. The judgment that has been made is that this fact is important, and that other facts, omitted, are not important” (Zinn, 2001, p. 658). hmm. now that is worth a think.

here are some reader reviews/opinions of the book and some additional resources, including torrent downloads. (apologies, mr. zinn, what you are saying is way too important for HarperCollins to hold sole rights.)

here is a preview ofVoices of a people’s history of the United States”, a companion, of sorts, to the main book. this acts like a reference to the main book, and is organised parallel to the people’s history.


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