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A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present [Paperback]

by Howard Zinn
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (842 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 2, 2005 0060838655 978-0060838652
“It’s a wonderful, splendid book—a book that should be read by every American, student or otherwise, who wants to understand his country, its true history, and its hope for the future.” —Howard Fast, author of Spartacus and The Immigrants

“[It] should be required reading.” —Eric Foner, New York Times Book Review

Library Journal calls Howard Zinn’s iconic 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.” Packed with vivid details and telling quotations, Zinn’s award-winning classic continues to revolutionize the way American history is taught and remembered. Frequent appearances in popular media such as The Sopranos, The Simpsons, Good Will Hunting, and the History Channel documentary The People Speak testify to Zinn’s ability to bridge the generation gap with enduring insights into the birth, development, and destiny of the nation.

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A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present + Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Known for its lively, clear prose as well as its scholarly research, A People's History of the United States is the only volume to tell America's story from the point of view of -- and in the words of -- America's women, factory workers, African-Americans, Native Americans, working poor, and immigrant laborers.

This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.

About the Author

Howard Zinn (1922-2010) was a historian, playwright, and social activist. His many books include A People's History of the United States, which has sold more than two million copies.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics (August 2, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060838655
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060838652
  • Product Dimensions: 2.1 x 3.2 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (842 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,177 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.

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

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#60 in Books > History
#60 in Books > History

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
826 of 915 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A teacher of American History's POV February 1, 2000
For several years of the last decade, I taught Advanced Placement U.S. History at a high school in northern Virginia. When I began the course, Zinn had already been assigned by my predecessor, and I needed a counterpoint to the main text (Bailey and Kennedy's bombastic, traditionalist, and short-on-social history "Pageant of the American Nation"). Zinn's deftly written book provided a fortunate antithesis to the "march of presidents and industrial titans" approach to American history. I found many chapters of this book to be such excellent stimulants to class discussions that I extended their use into my non-AP U.S. history classes, where students, many of whom could not otherwise have cared less about history, found themselves reading an interesting and provocative historian for the first time in their lives. Many of the best discussions I ever had with my classes (both AP and "regular") began with assigned chapters from Zinn. From there, it was an easy step to move on to the idea of historiography (the history of how history has been interpreted) and to decoupling my students from thinking of the textbook as revealed wisdom.
Yes, this book has its faults, as many of the previous reviews point out. It is very left-leaning. It does sometimes omit factual points that do not support its line of argument. It does sometimes verge on equating the misdeeds of American leaders with the horrific malevolence of the leaders of totalitarian states. It does romanticize its heroes.
For all that, though, this book is an excellent introduction to U.S. history if read as a contrasting voice to more traditional narratives. It is a fine and vigorous antidote to the excessively reverent tone of many high school textbooks.
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225 of 263 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Umm... yeah, about those 400 years of oppression.... January 1, 2011
History is, in its way, a fiction.

While it is made up of facts, things that are verifiable or at least reliably accepted as being what really happened, our understanding of history rests on a certain assumption that doesn't always hold up - that what we are reading or hearing is The Truth. It's how we learn about history when we're kids - that this happened and that happened, and that's all we really need to know.

The problem, however, is that what we got in our history books wasn't the entire story. Oh, it was true, for a given value of "true," but the historian who wrote the book did so with a specific narrative in mind, one that fit his or her perception of the past and which - more importantly - would sell textbooks to hundreds of schools across the country. The history that we get from those books is designed to appeal to the sensibilities of a populace that is already inclined to think well of its nation, and rarely deviates from the theme. While they do try to note the excesses, injustices and impropriety of the past, they tend to bury it in the glorious achievements of governments and industry.

Unfortunately, doing so means that there's a lot of history that gets left on the cutting room floor. Incidents, people, whole populations get brushed aside because either there's not enough room for them or because telling their story in detail ruins the mood that the historian is trying to set - usually one of bright optimism for a good and just nation.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this approach, either. An historian cannot practically include all of the historical viewpoints, good and bad, into a book meant to be used for only 180 days out of the year.
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1,030 of 1,260 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Raises important questions, terrible scholarship January 5, 2002
By A Customer
THE GOOD: Professor Zinn raises important questions that test our long held assumptions about American history, and for this--the questions--the book should be read and discussed vigorously. The book is also very readible, with a flowing, yet serious style.

THE BAD: Unfortunately, the book suffers from two fatal flaws, and for this reason does not belong in a classroom (college or otherwise). First, Zinn fails to cite adequately his sources (no footnotes or endnotes), leaving the reader with only a vague sense of his source material. This is particularly unacceptable for a work that admits to be controversial. His excuse, in the preface, that the footnotes would be too voluminous, is lame at best. Witness Pulitzer winning historian McCullough's use of sources in his much acclaimed JOHN ADAMS.

Second, in presenting his evidence, Zinn fails to quantify meaningfully the culpability of those historical figures he wishes to evaluate from the 'people's' perspective, nor does he even discuss the limitations or challenges posed by the evidence, nor does he sufficiently discuss his methodology used for reaching his conclusions. Mostly, he simply cites judgments made in secondary sources. Any college student can do that, and we should expect more from a distinguished professor.

For instance, in his chapter on Columbus, he indicates that two years after Columbus landed on Hispanola the native Arawak population had nearly all died. He also cites evidence of some gratuitously harsh treatment by the Spanish-- but he does not really indicate the degree to which these events were isolated or the norm. Specifically: did the Arawaks perish as a result of systematic slaughter or from disease transmitted from Spanish soldiers?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars REAL HISTORY
History is written by the winners. If you were on the losing side you might write from a different perspective. Really appreciated the view of this author.
Published 1 day ago by Thomas J. Hubbs
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
Purchased as a gift for a history buff. Exceptionally well written, but that kind of goes without saying when it comes to Zinn. This is an essential tome for every home.
Published 2 days ago by Yonkie02
1.0 out of 5 stars Reliable leftist crap
I do not think Zinn's purpose here was to portray American history, but to disparage what many of us have been taught regarding American History. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Thomas W. Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding historical work/not for those who only want "feel good"...
Outstanding work. Professor Zinn looks at the history of the United States from the perspective of the common and ordinary person, as well as the disenfranchised, the working... Read more
Published 4 days ago by Kevin Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful
This is a thought provoking book. If you aren't open-minded before you read it, you will certainly be afterwards. Read more
Published 10 days ago by Gill Page
5.0 out of 5 stars Some plusses and minuses.
Here's the deal.

Reading this book can be a chore. It takes some time, and is kind of dense. Read more
Published 14 days ago by J. Edgar Mihelic
1.0 out of 5 stars This is an alternate-history Marxist screed for the radical left, used...
Decades ago impressionable kids in HS were required to read this trash. Now we know where today's liberals came from. (Oh, and Zinn moved from self-admitted Marxism to anarchism. Read more
Published 15 days ago by John D. Trudel
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book. Thank you Good Will Hunting
Before the movie I hadn't heard of this book. I'm glad I got it. Excellent read and information. Would highly recommend it.
Published 17 days ago by kellie fallon
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye- Opening
Eye- Opening, Eye- Opening, Eye- Opening... Very informative book. Even though I still love the military this makes my opinion even more versatile.
Published 17 days ago by Nieish Brown
2.0 out of 5 stars It's Okay, but not scholarly
It's an ok read but the author uses sources that are not very academic. For example when talking about the great depression the author uses quotes from the Grapes of Wrath, which... Read more
Published 18 days ago by .....M
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Topic From this Discussion
Socialism vs. Communism
Do the actions of men make written ideas less meaningful?
May 4, 2012 by Matthew Burgos |  See all 6 posts
Paul Johnson is a British historian who leans conservative, and I've been told his "A History of the American People" is something like a response to Zinn.
Dec 14, 2009 by Hal |  See all 3 posts
Suggestions for a European history book?
I don't know a general European history book, butI could suggest the book "vive la revolution" by Mark Steel...if I remember correctly. Its a book on the French revolution that is very comedic and easy to read. It can be a little corny, but over all its a fun read. It also carries a... Read more
Jan 16, 2007 by Martin R. Walsh III |  See all 4 posts
Where does Zinn get the nerve?
What's worse is that all of Zinn's re-written lies about American history are pushed in schools all over our nation. I would not doubt that many parents do not know that their children are reading this garbage.
Oct 31, 2013 by celmak |  See all 2 posts
Comparing Historians. Be the first to reply
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