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People's History of the United States, A Paperback – June 23, 1995

4.2 out of 5 stars 220 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Consistently lauded for its lively, readable prose, this revised and updated edition of A People's History of the United States turns traditional textbook history on its head. Howard Zinn infuses the often-submerged voices of blacks, women, American Indians, war resisters, and poor laborers of all nationalities into this thorough narrative that spans American history from Christopher Columbus's arrival to an afterword on the Clinton presidency.

Addressing his trademark reversals of perspective, Zinn--a teacher, historian, and social activist for more than 20 years--explains, "My point is not that we must, in telling history, accuse, judge, condemn Columbus in absentia. It is too late for that; it would be a useless scholarly exercise in morality. But the easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress (Hiroshima and Vietnam, to save Western civilization; Kronstadt and Hungary, to save socialism; nuclear proliferation, to save us all)--that is still with us. One reason these atrocities are still with us is that we have learned to bury them in a mass of other facts, as radioactive wastes are buried in containers in the earth."

If your last experience of American history was brought to you by junior high school textbooks--or even if you're a specialist--get ready for the other side of stories you may not even have heard. With its vivid descriptions of rarely noted events, A People's History of the United States is required reading for anyone who wants to take a fresh look at the rich, rocky history of America.

From the Back Cover

With more than 300,000 paperback copies sold in its previous edition, this phenomenal bestseller, now revised for the first time, provides a "brilliant and moving history of the American people from the point of view of those who have been exploited politically and economically and whose plight has been largely omitted from most histories" (Library Journal).

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: HarpPeren; Rev&Updtd edition (June 23, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060926430
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060926434
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (220 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,604 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Even people who hate Howard Zinn admit that he's a good scholar. But many people hate him, for sure--and you have to remember that when you're reading some of these reviews. On the other hand, most of the reviewers seem to be communists themselves, and so their gushing reviews should surprise no one.

I recommend the book with some reservations. Agree or disagree, perspectives like Zinn's keep us from becoming ignorant victims of ideological propaganda.

I recommend it because it is a great, well-informed, honest and self-conscious dissenting opinion. Anyone who wants to consider themselves educated needs to consider dissenting opinions frequently. But I have reservations. Most importantly, Zinn's purpose is not to introduce someone to American history. He assumes his readers already know the basics. Of course, many people do not. It's not a history of the US; it's a series of contentious corrections to the history traditionally taught in American classrooms. (Why did the Colonies defeat the British? What caused the depression? Why did Nixon visit China? Unless you know this much, this book isn't yet for you.)

Some reviewers complained about Zinn's tone. Zinn is an average writer; better than many academics but worse than any good writer.
Other reviewers seemed to assume that either communists or far-right conservatives aren't "students of history." But of course some are. Zinn and Newt Gingrich are both well-informed scholars.

(If it matters to you, I am neither communist nor right-wing; I'm just not a very political thinker. I'm American, and I think Americans--all of us--can be proud and thankful; but we should recognize that our government and politicians have never been perfect.
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Format: Paperback
I'm going to partially disagree with the reader from Australia and agree (in part) with the reader from Key West, and probably offend both in the process. Oh well. Nothing personal, of course. What this book adds to the discussion of social history is a needed examination of long neglected issues of class in America, and how those pressing factors are often submerged in hyper-patriotism or blind faith in capitalism. That's very important, and that still doesn't get into the history textbooks. And the fact that Zinn is talking from the Left is, I think, not as important as the fact that his leftist perspective illuminates shadowed areas of history -- Cherokee culture in the 1830s, the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 (the best section in the book), or peace movements during World War II. That's important. The problem is that everything else he said could be found in the history textbooks I studied in elementary school, high school and college in the 1980s and 90s. Reading the book last month, I was more surprised by how much of Zinn's work is put into American History textbooks (in an admittedly abbreviated form) than is left out. Class struggles are, by and large, omitted, but everything else -- Indian genocide, the horrors of the Middle Passage, cold-hearted union crackdowns -- I studied in sixth grade. Zinn is not the corrective to traditional textbooks now; he writes them. There wasn't anything particularly radical in this book for me -- nothing I hadn't read before, anyway. Its cutting edge feels dulled by the passing of decades.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
A great many people who have reviewed this book seem to be surprised and appalled that Zinn has focused on the dark side of the American story. This should have been painfully obvious from the title- The 'PEOPLES' History of the United States. I'm more surprised that so many people have reserved so much invective for an author who dares to write a history from the perspective of the marginalized majority of this country- a large group who haven't always been on the recieving end of the American dream.
Yes, this book is biased, but so is every flag waving history book I was forced to read when growing up. Kudos to Zinn for providing a counter balance to tear jerking stories of honest, kindhearted pilgrims searching for religious freedom.
This book will be hard for some to swallow- especially those who have been raised on the jingoistic pap that many of our educational institutions call history. But this book is important and a must read for the serious student of American history. The old cliche' that 'history is written by the victors' is true and this book is the voice of those who were under the boot. Read it!
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Format: Paperback
What some of the readers below don't seem to get is that this book is not INTENDED to be a balanced look at American history. There IS no balanced look at history. Every historian brings his own biases and preconceptions to the table. Zinn makes this point early on in the book; and, to his immense credit, doesn't EVER claim to be fair or impartial or balanced. This is a history from the point of view of the rest of us: the native population, the slaves, the railroad workers, the child laborers, women, factory workers, soldiers, and everyone else whose voice has not been represented or even heard through previous histories.
Most histories are written from the point of view of the dominant affluent culture. It would naturally be difficult for the dominant culture to express the idea that their success is built on other people's misery; nobody likes looking bad in their own eyes. However, facts are facts: Millions of natives WERE systematically driven off their lan! d and killed, millions of africans WERE kept in the most degrading forms of slavery, thousands of workers WERE beaten and killed for daring to act for a better life, etc. These WERE the conditions of life for the other side. Closing our eyes does not help.
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