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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

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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 (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #936,641 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

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Customer Reviews

I recommend this book for history buffs.
The book was a very good read & our book club members really enjoyed learning about America's unknown hidden history.
Dolores Romack
The author suggests this was the case, but doesn't support it vigorously.
Seymour Morris Jr

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 45 people found the following review helpful 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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93 of 118 people found the following review helpful By Seymour Morris Jr on May 21, 2008
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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36 of 47 people found the following review helpful By M. Evans on May 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Did you know that before he took up arms against the British and became our first President, George Washington, a young English officer ordered his Virginia militiamen to sneak attack a group of French diplomats during a time when both countries were at peace thus committing a war crime? The cowardly incident resulted in the start of the French and Indian War, but didn't quite make it into my high school history book.

To give away any more surprising stories for this review would surely do a disservice to the author and the reader. But take my word for it, this book is packed with many more interesting historic tales!

Kenneth C. Davis, best-selling Don't Know Much About History and other books in his Don't Know Much... series, does a wonderful job of bringing to light all of the quirky, informative, but always amusing tales of the stoic, and yes, sometimes flawed, figured that shaped our nation's fate.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Rhetta Akamatsu on June 19, 2008
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews

More About the Author

Kenneth C. Davis is the author of Don't Know Much About® History, which spent 35 consecutive weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, and gave rise to the Don't Know Much About® series, which has a combined in-print total of 4.3-million copies. Davis has been dubbed the "King of Knowing" by because he becomes a subject expert in all of the areas he writes about: the Bible, Mythology, snd the Civil War, for example, and his latest Don't Know Much About® the American Presidents. Davis's success aptly makes the case that Americans don't hate history, just the dull version they slept through in class. But many of them want to know now because their kids are asking them questions they can't answer. Davis's approach is to refresh us on the subjects we should have learned in school. He does it by busting myths, setting the record straight and always remembering that fun is not a four-word letter word. Kenneth C. Davis is a frequent media guest and has appeared on hundreds of television and radio shows, including NPR, The Today Show, Fox and Friends, CNN, and The O'Reilly Factor. He has been a commentator for All Things Considered, and has written for the New York Times Op-Ed page, Smithsonian magazine and CNN,com and other national publications. In addition to his adult titles, he writes the Don't Know Much About Children's series published by HarperCollins. He lives in New York with his wife. They have two grown children.