Top critical review
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History from a non-traditional perspective
on February 28, 2013
I found the book interesting and thought provoking. Ledbetter is an excellent writer who knows how to tell a good story. The story moves quickly. He provides a very broad, but often shallow, treatment of events. The “forgotten history” is not so much historical facts but how those facts have been misinterpreted by traditional historians, who Ledbetter says often got it wrong because of their political leanings.
The book is really more of a political treatise on libertarian philosophy than a solid survey of early American history. Because of the broad scope, Ledbetter had to be selective in the covered events; something he accuses traditional historians of doing. His selectivity was guided by a clear libertarian bias, which to his credit is acknowledges up front. He chose events that best support his thesis—libertarianism works better than other political ideologies. His arguments are often compelling, even when the underlying assumptions seem flawed. I found some of the interpretations of facts to not square with what I have read elsewhere, but then my other sources are traditional histories.
Citations are not give, which I consider a serious weakness. Providing citations and possibly linked notes would have strengthened the work and its arguments. I would have rated the book higher if there were citations because their absence makes me suspicious of many given assertions—it’s easy to fudge when you don’t provide supporting documentation. Ledbetter gives two rationales for not including footnotes. First, he did not yet have a “real publisher “(perhaps an economic excuse). But is not there a responsibility to the readers? Second, he says footnotes are no longer needed given the accessibility of facts and information on the web. I don’t buy this rationale. Web searches produce global information unless you know exactly what you are looking for. Many of the assertions made in the book that I would have liked to seen supporting documentation would be difficult to track down via the web. That said Ledbetter does give excellent notes on his primary sources in a narrative bibliography.
Also at the end of the book Ledbetter gives some brief “Notes on Usage,” which I found helpful. I recommend that you look at those notes before reading the book. They may relieve some discomfort for those who were educated in traditional English grammar, as were most of us.
Bottom line: I applaud Ledbetter’s efforts to tell history from a non-traditional perspective. He contributes fresh interpretations which are too often suppressed by in-vogue paradigms. Although I don’t agree with a number of his interpretations, they are interpretations that need to be considered and debated. The book is certainly worth $1.50 and I think would be enjoyed by those who are inquisitive. Libertarians will love it.