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Interesting Perspective on American History
on February 19, 2012
The perspective that Give Me Liberty presents to its readers is predominantly one of the voice of the under represented or disenfranchised in the history of the United States. Professor Foner makes a concerted effort to convey how the average citizen experienced the history occurring around them and casts them as players in that drama.
What I have found surprising though is that for an academic text, Give Me Liberty often lacks objectivity to the point where Professor Foner blatantly injects his own subjective opinion into the text. It isn't even that he is giving examples of the thinking of others which would reflect his thesis; he just comes right out and tells you what he thinks. An example of this can be found on page 656, in the section which discusses "The New Imperialism." Foner writes, "... eventually, they would be accorded the right to self-government, although no one could be sure how long this would take. In the meantime, 'empire' was another word for 'exploitation.'"
While I may agree with this sentiment, I was under the impression that an academic text, especially one intended for a college-level audience, should, as objectively as practical, present the facts and allow the student to exercise their critical-thinking ability to consider the evidence and draw their own conclusions to the material presented.
Another minor issues I have with the the text is that Professor Foner has a tendency of using unattributed or anonymous quotations. An example of this is "... one historian has written,...." Well, if it is one historian, who was it? I can understand if he is making a generalization of how a large group of people felt about a topic, but if it is just one person, can't you attribute the quote to them? I don't necessarily expect footnoted references, but at least say who the person is.
Even with the issues that I have presented, I have given Give Me Liberty a four-star rating because of the fact that this text has caused me to look at American history from a much different perspective than that which was presented in other American history classes or as portrayed in popular culture. If you are open to the ideas presented, it will definitely give you a fresh perspective into what the American Experience has been for the majority of the people who have experienced it.