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Why American History Is Not What They Say: An Introduction to Revisionism
The Amazon Book Review
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Jeff Riggenbach's book is a godsend for anyone who needs a crash course in revisionist history of the United States. What is revisionism? It is the retelling of history from a point of view that differs from the mainstream, which always treats the victor (the state) as glorious and the conquered (individual liberty) as deserving of its fate.
There is a massive literature of revisionist American history. It is so vast, in fact, that people whose field is economics, law, or philosophy can feel intimidated by it all, especially since this material is not taught in class. Must we accept the idea that the architects of the Constitution loved liberty, that Lincoln was a liberator, that the United States had to crush Spain in the late 19th century, that World War I was unavoidable, that the U.S. was always the good guy in the Cold War?
No, not at all, say the revisionists. They tell a version of events that turns every convention on its head. But there is yet another problem here: most of the major revisionist historians are writing from the point of view of the political left, and their interpretation is skewed by that bias. What Riggenbach does is offer a thoroughgoing critique of leftwing revisionism in favor of a distinctly libertarian form of revisionism.
This book is a roundup of the major figures and the most important books; it is also a clear-headed assessment of all the major controversies. What you get from this one book is what would otherwise take a student months or years of searching in the library to locate and learn. There has never been anything like it.
This book is written in an engaging style, with the goal of sharing as much knowledge of this literature with the reader as is possible. In this way, this book opens up whole worlds you never knew existed.
There is no longer any reason to feel lost in the thicket of interpretation and reinterpretation. Like Virgil in the Inferno, Riggenbach is your guide.
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Time passed and the more I read, with the help of Amazon recommendations, I became an out and out revisionist. Now for the surprise. I didn't know I had anything in common with the likes of Zinn and the red diaper baby Eric Foner. Those lefties aren't buying a lot of this court historian stuff either. Maybe there are a lot of us and maybe we are coming from all political angles.
My purchase of the book was to see what Riggenbach had for a historiography. I got more than I expected. He brilliantly follows the unfolding of American revisionists over the last 100 plus years. High points in the book include the ten pages on guidelines for American history books for high school students, e.g. don't show women riding in covered wagons with men walking and show women as construction workers and men as nurses. Yeah, this stuff is hilarious. These ten pages are worth the price of the book. On a more academic level his discussion of John Dos Passos evolution to revisionism is excellent as is his admission that no historian is really without any bias. Heck, I'm a Germanophile and politically conservative.
That leads to a couple of criticisms. Riggenbach, as some other reviewers have noted, becomes confusing when he starts labeling the different revisionist schools of thought and then applying labels to historical figures. This gets him to calling TR a conservative and Barry Goldwater a liberal. His final sin is that he claims only leftists (my simplistic and all encompassing term) can be revisionists. In reality I think there are a whole bunch of us who beginning to believe that high school and freshman level college textbooks are baloney. This is good, while we can't get the whole historical truth because of all our preset notions we can at least get rid of the complete fabrications.
Sure the book has some weaknesses but it's still a dang good read. Highly recommended.
This book goes about putting a different spin on what we learned in school and destroys some myths about our Presidents and various acts they were involved in. There is considerable data to back up the assumptions however we must remember written history includes the writer’s beliefs, his political background, who is his intended customers are and the time it was written. History is revised with each generation which has its own values. The Author obviously has his slant on history and brings out thoughts on what happened. The book is well worth your time if you are interested in rounding your view of our history
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