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The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History Paperback – Unabridged, January 1, 2004

3.8 out of 5 stars 405 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Claiming that most textbooks and popular history books were written by biased left-wing writers and scholars, historian Thomas Woods offers this guide as an alternative to "the stale and predictable platitudes of mainstream texts." Covering the colonial era through the Clinton administration, Woods seeks to debunk some persistent myths about American history. For instance, he writes, the Puritans were not racists intent on stealing the Indians' lands, the Founding Fathers were not revolutionaries but conservatives in the true sense of the word, the American War Between the States (to even call it a civil war is inaccurate, Woods says) was not principally about slavery, Abraham Lincoln was no friend to the slaves, and FDR's New Deal policies actually made the Depression worse. He also covers a wide range of constitutional interpretations over the years, particularly regarding the First, Second, Ninth, and Tenth amendments, and continually makes the point that states' rights have been unlawfully trampled upon by the federal government since the early days of the republic. Though its title is more deliberately provocative than accurate, Woods' attack on what he sees as rampant liberal revisionism over the past 25 years proves to be an interesting platform for a book. He's as biased as those he rails against, of course, but he does provoke thought in an entertaining way even if he sometimes tries to pass off opinion as hard facts.

This quick and enjoyable read is packed with unfamiliar quotes, informative sidebars, iconoclastic viewpoints, and a list of books "you're not supposed to read." It is not a comprehensive or detailed study, but that is not its aim; instead, it offers ideas for further research and a challenge to readers to dig deeper and analyze some basic assumptions about American history--a worthy goal that Woods manages to reach. --Shawn Carkonen

From Publishers Weekly

This book is not so much politically incorrect as it is contrarian, as well as utterly contemptuous of anything supported by Liberals or "Intellectuals." At every opportunity, Woods quotes government leaders, media sources and "distinguished" academics who have said something that he feels backs up his view. That view is, by and large, classically conservative, with a focus on states’ rights and small government. Any flaws in or missteps by politicians become instant basis for rejecting them wholesale (i.e., Lincoln’s racial views; the fact that JFK’s two major books were ghostwritten), as Woods dredges up accusations both familiar and long-forgotten. The historical coverage is hardly comprehensive, since Woods focuses on telling the "truth" about issues Liberals have allegedly distorted, like the New Deal and the Civil Rights movement. Some ideas that he claims are controversial are anything but: most people know the Civil War was not fought primarily to abolish slavery, and it’s no secret that Stalin starved his people. Woods writes with zeal, and speckles his narrative with suggestions for further reading labeled "Books You’re Not Supposed to Read" (which are mostly Right-wing revisionist histories) and "PC Today" boxes containing a grab-bag of conservative gripes and assertions (i.e. "It is not true, as most people believe, that the Indians had no conception of land ownership and did not understand what they were doing when they sold their land to the Puritans"). Diehard Republicans may find this book an inspiring corrective to supposedly Liberal-biased history texts, but others will be put off by Woods’s cherry-picking approach and supercilious tone.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 270 pages
  • Publisher: Regnery Publishing; First Edition edition (January 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0895260476
  • ISBN-13: 978-0895260475
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 7.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (405 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,946 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I hold my master's, M.Phil., and Ph.D. in history from Columbia University and my bachelor's from Harvard. I've written numerous books, including The Church Confronts Modernity (Columbia University Press) and two New York Times bestsellers -- Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse, and The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History. My two latest books are Rollback: Repealing Big Government Before the Coming Fiscal Collapse and Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century.

My wife and I have four young daughters and live in Topeka, Kansas.

My full biography can be found at www.TomWoods.com/about. My upcoming appearances, in addition to plenty of free audio, video, and articles, are also available at my website.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
All you need to do is read the one-star reviews to see why you should read this book. We get told by one reviewer that it's "inaccurate," but, SURPRISE, no actual examples. Another reviewer thinks he has an example of an error when he says Woods calls Jefferson a Republican, when he was a Democrat. Why I am even bothering to reply to such an idiotic misunderstanding I do not know, but Jefferson was a Democratic-Republican, and his party was nearly always called the Republicans. No, it isn't the same Republican Party as today, but that WAS the name of Jefferson's party. Where do these doofuses come from?

I like the criticism that Woods condemns Woodrow Wilson and his decision to enter WWI. Is there anyone around still defending that decision? Hilarious. I also like "Woods blames the Great Depression on liberal social programs." Woods actually blames the Federal Reserve for the Great Depression, and Hoover and FDR's interventionist policies for making it so long. So what that a zillion other scholars are now saying the same thing. To a liberal today, this is enough to make you an "extremist," regardless of the evidence you have in your favor or the credentials you can boast.

I don't see any page on which Woods defends an abstract "right" to hold slaves. That would be a strange position for a libertarian like Woods to hold. But this is the kind of hysteria and irrationalism you can expect when you dare, like Woods, to ask serious and important questions. Even worse is that Woods is obviously quite prepared to ask and to answer these questions. He is a Harvard Ph.D. and holds his other degrees from Columbia. So instead of carefully answering Woods, he needs to be crushed, smeared, and destroyed. That is how these enemies of the truth operate.
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Format: Paperback
I have a master's degree in U.S. History and I have taught History and Government for the past six years at a small college in Iowa. I am well-qualified to judge this book, which seems to have drawn polar opposite reviews from people; It doesn't take long to figure out that the reviews are politically-driven.

Those readers who consider themselves liberal will hate this book because it skewers many left-wing sacred cows. However, Woods also takes many conservative icons to the wood-shed as well, including Abe Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. Those reviewers who say that Woods has written a one-sided attack on 'liberals' in history must not have read the book.

I was very familiar with many of the arguments and positions raised in this book before it was published. I have read several of the books that Woods cites in his bibliography. The chapters on the Civil War and Reconstruction, The Great Depression and New Deal, and JFK and LBJ are particularly well done.

It's amusing to read some of the scathing reviews of this book--almost all of them are groundless. None of the ones I perused raised any significant challenges to his facts. It would be difficult to do so, since Woods is presenting well-documented information. From the perspective of a fellow historian, there's nothing actually new in this book--it's merely a compilation of facts and data that most readers are probably unfamiliar with.

One is certainly free to support the more 'politically correct' history that you can find in every library and textbook in America. What Woods has done is compile some of the historical facts pushed out of those books in the name of political correctness, as he calls it. It creates a counter-point to the history most of us are used to seeing.
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There is very little in this book that I didn't know from other historical sources already, but with all the misinformation out there it will open your mind to examine what you read or think you know more critically. Dr. Woods has done us a big favor by putting it all together in this exceedingly readable volume. Don't expect it to be a comprehensive history. It's not meant to be. It's more like the "missing" books - in this case what's missing from standard American history texts.

Woods knocks off one myth and misperception after another - the Puritans "stole" Indian lands; and my favorites, as a long-term student of economics: Herbert Hoover "did nothing" about the market crash (he did way too much and hastened a depression); FDR changed all that (he continued and expanded on Hoover policies to give us another 10 years of depression), and so on. None of this should be news but apparently it is and that's why we need a book like this.

Moreover, Woods presents it - even some of the more arcane constitutional issues - with remarkable clarity. He has a facility to put facts in the context of contiguous events as well as fast forwarding to the "PC" of today. There's no sugar coating here. We see some of our treasured ideas and men - warts and all. You probably won't "agree" with (perhaps I should say like) all his findings (I didn't).

The organization of the book with highlights, bullet summaries and sidebars adds to comprehension and recall. While I found a few nits to pick here and there they are too insignificant to lower the rating of the book. Buy it. Read it! And have your kids read it when they study American history.
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