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A People's History of the United States: 1492-Present (Perennial Classics) Reprint Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 218 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0060528379
ISBN-10: 0060528370
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

According to this classic of revisionist American history, narratives of national unity and progress are a smoke screen disguising the ceaseless conflict between elites and the masses whom they oppress and exploit. Historian Zinn sides with the latter group in chronicling Indians' struggle against Europeans, blacks' struggle against racism, women's struggle against patriarchy, and workers' struggle against capitalists. First published in 1980, the volume sums up decades of post-war scholarship into a definitive statement of leftist, multicultural, anti-imperialist historiography. This edition updates that project with new chapters on the Clinton and Bush presidencies, which deplore Clinton's pro-business agenda, celebrate the 1999 Seattle anti-globalization protests and apologize for previous editions' slighting of the struggles of Latinos and gays. Zinn's work is an vital corrective to triumphalist accounts, but his uncompromising radicalism shades, at times, into cynicism. Zinn views the Bill of Rights, universal suffrage, affirmative action and collective bargaining not as fundamental (albeit imperfect) extensions of freedom, but as tactical concessions by monied elites to defuse and contain more revolutionary impulses; voting, in fact, is but the most insidious of the "controls." It's too bad that Zinn dismisses two centuries of talk about "patriotism, democracy, national interest" as mere "slogans" and "pretense," because the history he recounts is in large part the effort of downtrodden people to claim these ideals for their own.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

Howard Zinn is a historian, playwright, and social activist. He was a shipyard worker and Air Force bombardier before he went to college under the GI Bill and received his Ph.D. from Columbia University. He has taught at Spelman College and Boston University, and has been a visiting professor at the University of Paris and the University of Bologna. He has received the Thomas Merton Award, the Eugene V. Debs Award, the Upton Sinclair Award, and the Lannan Literary Award. He lives in Auburndale, Massachusetts.


Product Details

  • Series: Perennial Classics
  • Paperback: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (April 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060528370
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060528379
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (218 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,828 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Howard Zinn (1922-2010) was a historian, playwright, and activist. He wrote the classic A People's History of the United States, "a brilliant and moving history of the American people from the point of view of those ... whose plight has been largely omitted from most histories" (Library Journal). The book, which has sold more than two million copies, has been featured on The Sopranos and Simpsons, and in the film Good Will Hunting. In 2009, History aired The People Speak, an acclaimed documentary co-directed by Zinn, based on A People's History and a companion volume, Voices of a People's History of the United States.

Zinn grew up in Brooklyn in a working-class, immigrant household. At 18 he became a shipyard worker and then flew bomber missions during World War II. These experiences helped shape his opposition to war and passion for history. After attending college under the GI Bill and earning a Ph.D. in history from Columbia, he taught at Spelman, where he became active in the civil rights movement. After being fired by Spelman for his support for student protesters, Zinn became a professor of Political Science at Boston University, were he taught until his retirement in 1988.

Zinn was the author of many books, including an autobiography, You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train, the play Marx in Soho, and Passionate Declarations. He received the Lannan Foundation Literary Award for Nonfiction and the Eugene V. Debs award for his writing and political activism.

Photographer Photo Credit Name: Robert Birnbaum.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
While there is no doubt that Mr. Zinn is a communist at heart, there is also no doubt that Zinn's view and presentation is very entertaining not to mention pretty factual. Let us not fool ourselves here my friends, every writer who writes about politics or history is going to have a bias and that bias is going to present itself in that author's work.

I am a Republican, born again Christian and I had no problem with Zinn's views, simply because I am a realist. For years we were fed that nonsensical view of Christopher Columbus being a pious man coming to the Americas to bring salvation and religion to the indigenous people or simply just omitting the facts in American history studies that would show a very negative side of our founding fathers.


I don't agree with everything Mr. Zinn has said in this book but it is refreshing to see history told more correctly so than in our public school system which are suppose to educate not indoctrinate.

To my dear republican brethren out there, do not feel that you have to put our fore fathers on a pedestal in order for you to feel patriotic and zealous for your country. The reason I can be a conservative Republican and still agree with a lot of what Zinn has to say is (1. I do not allow a party to think for me, I always keep an open mind, without an open mind we are no different then the followers of David Koresh and other cultic fanatics. (2. We have come a long way in this great country of ours and have much to be proud of regardless of your race or back ground. Let us not view things as liberal or right wing, just be open minded and sift through the facts in different history books and find the truth somewhere in the middle.

I recommend this book. 4 out of 5 stars (-1 star for the indoctrinating tone)
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Format: Paperback
I have noticed a lot of critics saying that this book neglects to mention America's achievments, that it is biased, liberal, radical, revisionist, communist..ect. But the point that these people are missing is that this book is intended to be biased. It is intended to be read as a supplement to the standard textbook American history. For my High Schol U.S. history course, we read this book as well as a more traditional and general text. This allows us to view American history with a very open and critical mind. It allows us to question history as well as the historian reciting it. What Mr. Zinn is trying to do is give us an alternate perspective upon America. A perspective that many of us are blind to. This book is to read with an open mind. Not with a liberal or conservative one. Whether you agree with Howard Zinn or not (I know I have disagreeded with him many times during the course of this reading as well as been in total concensus with) this book provides insight into America's past that many people need to hear. One certainly shouldn't jump to the conclusion that this book is the true American history because it is a very specific and biased one. The book should be read with a traditional history in mind. But one should also not disregard the ideas that this text has to offer. Obviously it has flaws. It was writen by a singal person with his own perspective on America. But every history book I have ever read (as a high school student that is many) has its flaws and its bias. That doesn't invalidate what information it has to offer though. I believe this book should be a standard in classrooms to be read with a more standard U.S. text.
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Format: Paperback
Zinn presents his case clearly and consistently for 688 pages. I enjoyed his POV, especially his attention to the property interests of the founding fathers that set the outer limit of their revolutionary zeal. Zinn is up front about this sympathies from the beginning, and shouldn't be faulted for making his case.
However, I was unhappy with the "history" itself. Zinn often jumps around from event to event and he's sparing with his dates. When he could be specific he's nearly always vague, favoring phrases like "that summer" rather than giving a month or day. It suggests to me that he's drawing from memory or old notes rather than directly from his sources.
He's consciously loose with his sources, giving a bibliography rather than endnotes or footnotes. Granted, there would be a lot of them, but they'd substantiate his claims, especially his statistics. I was often surprised by them and wanted to quote them, but it would be nearly impossible to sort through his book list and track down his reference to, say the percentage of literate white males in 1740. He says he tries to credit his sources in the text where possible, but he never gives a page number, and for periodicals, he doesn't give the date.
I got the feeling, especially in the later chapters that he was drawing heavily on just having read the paper for the last 30 years. In the end, he admits that his history shorts the West, and he draws from East Coast papers of record for much of his analysis. As he nears the present day, he totally loses perspective, and he veers off into what could have been, rather than telling what was. He should have cut the book short after the Vietnam war.
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