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Why American History Is Not What They Say: An Introduction to Revisionism Paperback – 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 212 pages
  • Publisher: Ludwig von Mises Institute (2009)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00275PS2Q
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,579,122 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jeff Riggenbach (born January 12, 1947) is an American libertarian journalist, author, editor, broadcaster, and podcaster.

Educated at the University of Houston and California State University, Dominguez Hills, Riggenbach began working in journalism and broadcasting while still a student. Over a period of nearly thirty years (1966-1995), he worked in classical and all-news radio in Houston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco as a writer, anchor, producer, and book and music critic;
contributed articles and reviews to numerous daily newspapers, including The New York Times, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, and the Washington Times; held staff writing positions on two of California's largest dailies, the Oakland Tribune and the Orange County Register; served as executive editor of the Libertarian Review and as managing editor of the Pacific Business Review; put in two years as the daily economics commentator for CNN Radio; and served as a contributing editor of several magazines, including Reason, Inquiry, and Liberty.

Throughout the 1980s, he produced the nationally syndicated daily radio programs "Byline" (well known as the radio home during the '80s of Nicholas Von Hoffman, Nat Hentoff, Michael Kinsley, Julian Bond, Howard Jarvis, and U.S. Senator William Proxmire) and "Perspective on the Economy." Since the dawn of the new century, he has written increasingly for publication on the Internet, most notably on,,, and has long been associated with various libertarian think tanks and foundations, creating, managing, or working on special projects for the Cato Institute, the Reason Foundation, the Center for Independent Thought, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute, among others. In 2005 he was named a senior fellow of the Randolph Bourne Institute, the parent nonprofit of the popular website,

Riggenbach's first book, In Praise of Decadence (1998), argued that the baby boomers turned out to be far more libertarian in their personal philosophy than had been expected. His second book, Why American History Is Not What They Say: An Introduction to Revisionism (2009), argued that political events and trends in late 20th Century America had led to a rebirth of popular interest in revisionist accounts of American history. His third book, Persuaded by Reason: Joan Kennedy Taylor & the Rebirth of American Individualism (2014), combines an historical survey of American individualism with a detailed biographical profile of one of its largely unsung but enormously influential figures.

Though his long and varied career in radio broadcasting came to an end along with the 20th Century (his last gig, as an associate producer and on-air book reviewer for the then-popular weekly public radio program "Beyond Computers," ended in the fall of 2000) he has since turned the skills he developed in radio to use in narrowcasting. He has become a leading narrator of audio books on political, economic, and historical subjects for a number of producing organizations and audio publishers, most notably Blackstone Audio, University Press Audiobooks, the Tenth Amendment Center, and He has also established a reputation as a podcaster. His popular "Libertarian Tradition" podcast was updated weekly on the Ludwig von Mises Institute website in 2010 and 2011 and lives on in the archives available at and His "Kranky Notions" podcast has been updated monthly on (and since September 2014.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Andrew S. Rogers VINE VOICE on May 29, 2009
Format: Paperback
I knew going in that this book would be educational and thought provoking. It turned out to be so in ways I wasn't expecting.

Subtitled "An Introduction to Revisionism," I expected this title to be almost bibliographical in certain ways, telling the reader "If you want to get the revisionist story on Pearl Harbor," for example, "read this title by Harry Elmer Barnes. For the straight dope on Abraham Lincoln, start with Thomas DiLorenzo, the follow with X and Y." And there is a little bit of that: the core of this book is author Jeff Riggenbach's walk through American history as the revisionists tell it, with emphasis not only on key revisionist historians, but also on the eras of American history that have attracted the most revisionist attention, namely the War Between the States and the two world wars.

But that's only the start.

Or, describing its physical placement in the book, that's only the middle. Riggenbach in fact starts us out, somewhat surprisingly, with a survey of the novels of Gore Vidal, making the case for Vidal as a significant revisionist historian in his own right. At first, I frankly found this a little annoying, since I don't read a lot of fiction and was in a hurry to get to the "real" historians. But the author eventually brought me around to understanding that Vidal is, if nothing else, by far the most widely read of any of the writers mentioned in this book, and therefore probably the most influential purveyor of a non-standard interpretation of American history. Fair enough. Following the survey of American history described above, Riggenbach also gave me a new respect for something I'd always assumed was leftist propaganda, Howard Zinn's
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By terry on June 20, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a splendid survey of American Historical Revisionism, in which Riggenbach provides readers with a plainspoken history of history. It is an essential book for any truth-seeking student of American History, a real learning experience.

He introduces the key historians less-read by government school students. These are names which are rarely referenced by the "court historians", that is, court facilitators of myth as history. Charles Beard, Harry Elmer Barnes, William Appleman Williams, Gore Vidal, James J. Martin, Murray Rothbard, Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, Thomas DiLorenzo and Tom Woods are among the highlighted revisionists. All took the supposedly neutral version of events, examined the questions begging to be asked by the evidence, offered their syntheses, and challenged the popularly accepted conclusions.

The Civil War, WWI, WWII, and the Cold War get significant attention. And, when Riggenbach finishes with these subjects, including great notes, history teachers around the country ought to prepare for a new set of questions from the newly aware. Things didn't necessarily turn out for the best. American Exceptionalism takes a deserved hit in Riggenbach's exegesis.

Also, a never mentioned but obvious extension of this work is journalism, history's first draft. The incentives are perverse in that business: they reward mostly state favored opinions. Jefferson's hoped-for vigilant "newspapers", as well as TV and internet sources, require close scrutiny in one's search for truth. Can anyone imagine the likes of a David Gregory launching a truth-seeking missile at a power player of today`s misnamed "left"? Well, as is also the case for most historians, if a journalist pursued anti-state truth as a goal, s/he would put at great risk a potentially lucrative career.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on May 23, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition
Riggenbach has done libertarians and all who question Consensus History a great service. In a rather compact volume, he covers various strands of revisionism from the Progressive Historians through the libertarian revisionists of today. One wishes THIS were textbook. So many cherished myths are succintly debunked as the author surveys the history of Revisionism. Riggenbach's extended treatment of Gore Vidal is especially illuminating. I hope this book reaches a wider audience than just other libertarians - it would prompt people to rethink their old assumptions.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Earth that Was on September 8, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jeff Riggenbach has provided a fascinating, but in some ways quirky, survey of the revisionist movement in American history. Riggenbach does not provide either a "Readers' Digest" summary of revisionism or even an introduction to the subject. What he does provide is an outline of some of the main currents of the revisionist tradition of American history which (surprisingly) is ably summarised by the "fictional" works of Gore Vidal. Vidal, no doubt, is a serious student of revisionism. Riggenbach is a serious student of American literature so this approach is both unique and interesting. Riggenbach brings in more conventional debates over historiography, objectivity in history, the role of "historical fiction" and the "textbook wars" along the way. These diverse subjects are suitably weaved together by Riggenbach.

Riggenbach departs from this "broad brush" approach on only a few occasions. He critiques Murray Rothbard (who was both an able economist and historian) for his "Old Right" conception of the World War Two / early Cold War anti-interventionists. Riggenbach points out that there were many leftists and liberals in the usual listings of "Old Right" figures. In many ways this is "flogging a dead horse." Rothbard and fellow historian of the Old Right, one time New Leftist, Ronald Radosh, generally recognised the diverse roots of the movement, which nonetheless still had it's main political representation from the (right wing) Taft wing of the Republican Party. More useful and perceptive is Riggenbach's discussion of the Republican Party as the heir of the Whigs and Federalists, America's longest running "big government" political tradition.
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