16 April 2008
A People’s History: the Industry
Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States (1980) has spawned an industry of creation. His website recently announced a new comic book, A People’s History of American Empire (April 2008). This collaboration among Zinn, Paul Buhle, and Mike Konopacki tells a story of the author “from his childhood in the Brooklyn slums to his role as one of America’s leading historians” (Macmillan).
Earlier spin-offs from Zinn’s bestselling A People’s History have included George Kirschner’s collaboration with Zinn, A People's History of the United States: The Wall Charts (1995); a range of partial reproductions, such as The Twentieth Century: From the Author’s A People’s History of the United States (1998); and a children’s version, A Young People's History of the United States (2007), 2 vols., adapted by Rebecca Stefoff.
Voices of a People’s History of the United States (2004), edited by Zinn and Anthony Arnove, is designed as a companion to the main text. I discussed the second document in this text at “Fragments from Bartolomé de Las Casas.” Gayle Olson-Raymer edited a teaching guide, Teaching with Voices of a People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove (2006).
Other People’s Histories
Chris Harmon wrote A People’s History of the World (1999), which has a new edition just out last week. Harmon is editor of the journal International Socialism. A blurb for this book from Howard Zinn has such prominence on the cover that a casual browser might mistake him for coauthor.
Zinn wrote the forward to A People's History of the Supreme Court (1999) by Peter Irons. A People's History of the American Revolution: How Common People Shaped the Fight for Independence (2001) by Ray Raphael is part of a New Press series edited by Zinn. This series also includes A People's History of the Vietnam War (2003) by Jonathan Neale, A People's History of the Civil War (2006) by David Williams, A People’s History of Sports in the United States (2008) by Dave Zirin, The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World (2008) by Vijay Prashad, and the forthcoming A People’s Art History of the United States (2009) by Nicolas Lampert and John Couture.
Quite a number of histories offer the phrase “a people’s history” as part of the title, but that phrase neither guarantees Zinn’s influence, nor his imprimatur. Nor have I found reasons to believe that he has objections to any of these texts.
The title of Michael Parenti’s The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People's History of Ancient Rome (2003) may reflect the popularity of Zinn’s book, but the author’s Democracy for the Few (1974), now in its eighth edition, was already popular when A People’s History of the United States first appeared.
Denis R. Janz, General Editor of A People’s History of Christianity, 7 vols, does not mention Zinn in “What is People’s History.” Nor do I know Howard Zinn’s relationship to:
The Congo: From Leopold to Kabila: A People's History (2002) by Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja.
A People's History of Science: Miners, Midwives, and “Low Mechaniks” (2005) by Clifford D. Conner.
The Blood Never Dried: A People's History of the British Empire (2006) by John Newsinger.
A People's History of England (1938) by A. L. Morton was out before Howard Zinn came of age. Page Smith’s eight volume People’s History also precedes Zinn’s entry into this stream of titles. It began with Smith’s A New Age Now Begins: A People's History of the American Revolution in 1976 and concluded with Redeeming the Time: A People’s History of the 1920s and the New Deal (1987).