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America's Hidden History: Untold Tales of the First Pilgrims, Fighting Women, and Forgotten Founders Who Shaped a Nation Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 29, 2008

4 out of 5 stars 122 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


PRAISE FOR AMERICA’S HIDDEN HISTORY: “[M]errily removes the whitewash from an often-bland concept of the past, peeling people from their statues with tales of how some of the most famous Americans of whom you never heard shaped our nation.” (Associated Press)

“With his witty and irreverent view of this country’s Colonial and revolutionary past, [Davis] ably shows that the success or failure of isolated events can have national and international consequences. May we expect a sequel to this delightful effort?” (Library Journal)

“Davis’ engaging treatment is spicy but judicious…the book is far superior to standard high-school treatments, and a valuable reference for students young and old.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Once again Ken Davis proves that what you don’t know can be shocking. Do yourself a favor. Read this book.” (Richard M. Cohen, author of Strong at the Broken Places)

“You’ll learn lots in this engaging book of true, and often important, stories from U.S. history. These aren’t the tales you’ll find in most textbooks.” (Joy Hakim, author of A History of US)

“Writing from a rich font of scholarship, seasoning the facts with wit, irony and a novelist’s eye for telling detail, Kenneth C. Davis has conjured back to life some of the most fascinating figures of America’s founding decades. ” (Ron Powers, co-author of Flags of Our Fathers)

About the Author

Kenneth C. Davis is the New York Times bestselling author of A Nation Rising; America's Hidden History; and Don't Know Much About® History, which spent thirty-five consecutive weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, sold more than 1.6 million copies, and gave rise to his phenomenal Don't Know Much About® series for adults and children. A resident of New York City and Dorset, Vermont, Davis frequently appears on national television and radio and has been a commentator on NPR's All Things Considered. He blogs regularly at www.dontknowmuch.com.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Smithsonian; First Edition edition (April 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061118184
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061118180
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (122 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #773,604 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David Donelson on May 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Untold tales are interesting, but the real value to me was what these tales revealed about the characters in them. Kenneth Davis did a great job of putting their lives and actions in a meaningful context.

Living not far from the Hutchinson River Parkway, I was fascinated by his take on the tale of Anne Hutchinson. I'd heard it before, of course, and knew the basics. What Davis told me, though, was that she had advised some of her male disciples not to join a militia at war with local Indians, making her an organizer of some of America's earliest conscientious objectors. He also pointed out that it was after her trial that the Puritans in Boston banned Roman Catholics, Quakers, and other sects. Her younger sister, who became a Quaker, was whipped for blasphemy. Another of her followers who joined the Quakers, Mary Dyer, was arrested, stripped in public, and lashed. Later, the defiant Dyer returned to Boston, refused to leave and was executed.

Davis gives us equally illuminating tales of George Washington as a headstrong and ambitious young man who committed a war crime, what Paul Revere really did during the Revolution, and how Daniel Shay stood up for his rights only to be crushed like a bug--making American stronger in the process.

America's Hidden History reads as if it were told from the inside, full of first-person accounts and other source material that give us a clear, relatively objective view of what our founding fathers (and mothers) were like.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds: A Novel of Scandal, Love and Death in the Congo
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Format: Hardcover
Having read several of the author's previous "Don't Know Much About..." books, I looked forward to his newest product with anticipation.

Alas, this book does not meet a high standard. It's a strange book, because it focuses only on a small part of America's history (1565-1789) and it does so by telling six stories, none of them interrelated. The result is a book that is disjointed and lacks any kind of structure.

The stories offer some nice tidbits of historical research, but fail to make a compelling point. The chapter on Benedict Arnold, for instance, fails to address the fascinating question, Why did he do what he did? Sure, he was disappointed and possibly enraged at not getting the recognition he felt he deserved, and he had an awful pro-British wife, but one wishes to know more... Similarly, the final chapter, on Shays Rebellion, was a wake-up call that forced the Founding Fathers to really work on creating the right kind of Constitution and republic form of government, but how close a call was it? Was our new country (actually a collection of squabbling states) in serious danger of collapsing entirely? The author suggests this was the case, but doesn't support it vigorously. The reader is left hanging, wondering: What's the point?

Generally speaking, good history writing needs to be either extremely thorough, or fast-paced. This book, unfortunately, falls in the deadly middle and is boring.
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Format: Hardcover
Kenneth Davis knows that history is complicated.

American history textbooks and oral history give us perfect role models in our historical figures and an unfolding story in which we were always on the side of right and any bad things that happened were the other people's fault.

In reality, it's never that simple. And we don't even usually know even the basic facts.

For instance, most people know that Columbus discovered America and then a couple hundred years later the Pilgrims arrived.

But how many people know about the wine-making French Huguenots, who were here before the Pilgrims?

And the Pilgrims were stern and God-fearing people, but they came here for religious freedom and our country was built on that priciple.

Ask Anne Hutchinson about that.

And I bet you have no idea how blood-thirsty the Pilgrims could be.

You will after you read this book. Be prepared for a shock.

And as for the Founding Fathers, well, of course, they were all virtuous, highly intelligent, dignified men who came together in one accord to build our country and create a foundation of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all of us, regardless of social station.

Except people are all more complex than that, and nobody's motives are completely pure. Plus, everyone makes mistakes.

Like the one that a young, inexperienced George Washington made that ended in murder and started a war.

The truth is that the Founding Fathers all had different ideas and conflicting goals, for themselves and for the nation. The way the country was formed was through brawling, back-biting, lying, greed, and arrogance, much like politics today.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
These are stories about six separate and interesting events in American history. They are not major events, but they certainly fill in some of the cracks and give us a different perspective on the history taught in American schools.

Each chapter starts out with a timeline relevant to the story and helps place story in perspective; each chapter ends with a section called "Aftermath" which summarizes the consequences of the events in the chapter.

"Isabella's Pigs" tell us a little about Columbus's expedition and a lot about related Spanish activity in the New World.

"Hannah's Escape" is the story of Hannah Dustin (probably unfamiliar to most people outside New England) and more about Anne Hutchinson and the Pequot war.

"Washington's Confession" gives an interesting view of George Washington as a young officer and a possible war crime he may have committed as well as his later role in the American Revolution.

"Warren's Toga" has some interesting information about Joseph Warren and some of the personalities at the beginning of the American Revolution. Some of it is anecdotal but fascinating.

"Arnold's Boot" has good, solid biographical information on Benedict Arnold. You may not think the same of Arnold after you read this chapter.

"Lafayette's Sword" is concerned with Shay's Rebellion and its aftermath and describes the disaffection Americans had with the new government after the Revolution (and with good reason).

All in all, a nice read but certainly nothing that will be earth shaking. I think it might open some people's eyes (especially the chapter on Benedict Arnold) and it certainly will round out a lot of things that you think you knew about early American history.
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