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History Lessons: How Textbooks from Around the World Portray U.S. History 1st Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1595580825
ISBN-10: 1595580824
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Editorial Reviews


A provocative, timely and surprisingly readable book. (The Washington Post Book World)

A brilliant idea. (Foreign Affairs)

About the Author

Dana Lindaman is studying Romance philology at Harvard University, focusing on the formation of French identity in secondary school textbooks.

Kyle Ward is an assistant professor of history and political science at Vincennes University in Indiana. He is the author of In the Shadow of Glory.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 404 pages
  • Publisher: New Press, The; 1 edition (July 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595580824
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595580825
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #83,856 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Celia Redmore on July 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
In History Lessons, a philologist and a historian walk us through US history as it is presented to high school children in 28 other countries by their history textbooks. For each of 50 topics that normally appear in US junior or senior high school history books, the authors have located about a page of text from one or several foreign books that address the specified topic.
We start by learning about Viking Exploration as it is taught to children from Norway and Canada, work our way through the American Revolution as taught to the British, slavery as taught to Nigerians, World Wars I and II as taught to Germans, visit Cuba and Vietnam, and end up in the Philippines, North Korea and the Middle East, as taught to young Israelis and Saudis. But this isn?t history as Americans are taught it, the land of the free and the brave, the land of Free Trade. This is a country that is positively alien, where Americans are often the bad guys to be resisted and mistrusted. How can this be?
Those of us ? from wherever we came ? who have read the history of our countries in foreign books have passed through a series of emotions: denial, anger and (if we?re lucky) understanding. Every child everywhere in the world is taught at school that he or she comes from the most important, most heroic and most humane country in the world. Our parents and teachers said so, therefore it must be true. The difficulty comes when we leave our home country and find that others don?t have the same benign attitude to us. That is a hard enough transition for an individual. When two countries face each other, as the US and Iraq have recently, there is the potential for wholesale confusion and misunderstanding. It is incredibly hard to rethink such basic facts about our identity as those we were taught as children.
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Format: Paperback
There used to be a wonderful news magazine called Atlas that produced little of its own material, but reprinted material on a given monthly topic (nuclear power, the EU, the Middle East, free trade, etc.) from 4-6 other news and editorial sources from different regions of the world.

What was good about Atlas, and was less well done in this book was the range of perspectives. In this book there are on many of the topics only 1 or 2 other perspectives.

An example of this is the American invasion of Russia in 1918. When I took history (in the US) this was never mentioned, and most Americans are unaware of this and very incredulous about whether it happened. In this book it is covered as perceived by Japan and the UK. A total of 5 sentences between them. I would be fascinated by what was taught in Russia about this.

The book seems to avoid topics that might be upsetting to the US world view. The US CIA toppling of the the elected government in Iran in 1953 (is this mentioned in the Middle East?) or Chile in ~1970 (how was this viewed in South America?)Cuban-American relations - only the Cuban view? why not that of Mexico which would be fascinating. Sometimes the book gets in right. 5 text book views of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki including Asian and European views.

So I found this an excellent idea, but generally not executed in a strong broad and challenging way. Too much on things like the French and Indian War and not enough on the 20th century. Too few view points.
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Format: Hardcover
History may be written by the winners, but that doesn't mean it's the only history that's out there. That's the premise behind "History Lessons: How Textbooks from around the World Portray U.S. History". However the only people that will run to read this book are, history teachers and history hobbyists. That's not to say it's a bad book. It is a great book, but it doesn't lend itself to be read a linier manner. It is more apt as a reference book for high school research papers on American History. The causal reader looking for a smooth mind blowing read will be bored and frustrated. The main reason that the book drags is how it's edited, there is very little writing here. Most of the passages are directly from other text books. The authors/editors do provide some brief insight before a selected passage but this is a compilation work, not a original work of non-fiction.

The idea is original however, take snippets of textbooks from around the world about American history and hold them up to what we think we know about our own nation's story. The result is like walking through a history hall of mirrors, different countries obviously have different perspectives. The main points taken away from this book are that America is still very much an isolated country in thought and that historical events happening right now make a lot more sense when you take into account other nation perspectives. That may seem obvious, but when you apply it, let's say North Korea's attempt to test nuclear missiles to it's own perspective of the Korean War ("We bent the pride of the Americans who used to boast of being the world's most powerful nation and for the first time in the history, we brought the beginning of their decay.") it seems a little more profound.
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