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

4.4 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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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: #2,076,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm old enough to have been educated with the old "America is always right and has always done the right thing at all times" guffaw. But even then I wondered about the Maine and the Lusitania. And, there were no aircraft carriers at Pearl, just old WWI junk (sorry, it's true). I wondered how Germany was a threat to America and why Lincoln was so beatified.

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.
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