asher63 (asher63) wrote,

Reading American History

Hugh Brogan's book is readable, informative, and fun. It's great to read if you want the viewpoint of an articulate, intelligent liberal in the 1970s era. He is laudably anti-Communist, but (I think) astonishingly naive about the Soviet Union's intentions. He falls back on the diversion that (paraphrasing) "Russia and China were never a monolithic bloc the way the scaremongers thought they were" - exactly as so many libs do today about the Arab/islamist regimes. Brogan also delivers a stinging condemnation of pre-WWII pacifism; but his comments on the State of Israel (near the bottom of page 622) will make you sit up and say "Huh?"

Paul Johnson is the British Conservative MP who wrote "A History of the Jews", and his history of the US (titled "A History of the American People", not to be confused with Zinn's book!) is definitely pro-American. Johnson has a very illuminating section on the Progressive movement of the early 20th century, and (on page 636) a highly informative explanation of the change from small-government liberalism (which saw big government as "a conspiracy to steal money from the hard-working population") to big-government liberalism (which "began to see a strong federal government ... as the defender of the ordinary man and woman against the excesses of corporate power"). Only criticism of Johnson: way, waaaay too many statistics!

Both Johnson and Brogan stress the inherent danger of the myopic pre-WWII mindset of "neutrality" which refused to see nations in conflict as "aggressors" or "victims" but simply, and without distinction, as "belligerents". Moral relativism, anyone?

Schweikart's book is great. It was written explicitly as a *conservative* history of the US, and as a rebuttal to Zinn (the authors deny that last bit, but I think it's obvious). The authors are critical of American policy when it's appropriate, and devote a great deal of space to the civil rights movement. They have a great admiration for Theodore Roosevelt, despite his Progressive ways. They're sharply critical of Eisenhower, "hardly in the vanguard of civil rights", whom they blame for "cementing the view among black politicians that their only source of support was the Democratic Party." The section on the radicalization of the campus is invaluable. My only issue with "Patriot's History" is that I think the authors offer too many opinions as "fact". But there are plenty of facts there, and facts are what's been missing from the teaching of American history for much too long.

Howard Zinn's book was a success when it came out, and it sold well in paperback - and I can now see dozens of used copies of Zinn sitting on the shelves of Powell's (including, possibly, my own). I think Zinn's book was successful, not because Americans were looking for a left-wing history of their country, but because they were starved for *any* book on their country's history that promised to be readable and informative.

I'm looking forward to the release of the paperback edition of "Patriot's History", and I'm betting it will sell well, too.
Tags: world

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