21 November 2007

Patriots' and Peoples' Histories

Blog Focus
I aim to record and publicize my questions, observations, and arguments stimulated through reading of Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen's A Patriot's History of the United States. This book has been uncritically praised by those that share its fundamental political perspectives, and superficially condemned by those that disagree with its biases.

At the same time, Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States has received comparable treatment, but the parties are switched. Liberals praise it, while conservatives condemn it. Of course, Zinn's work has been in print for nearly three decades and has thus gathered considerably more commentary. I'm reading it again alongside A Patriot's History.

Both books are disappointing, and both have strengths that call for greater attention to the details of their strengths and weaknesses.

Through this weblog, I plan to offer ongoing analysis of Schweikart and Allen, on the one hand, and Zinn, on the other. Along the way, I will be required to broaden and deepen my already extensive reading in American history.

Other items of general historical interest may spawn text along the stream, particularly the convergence of history and politics (as when politicians dabble in history, usually to the detriment of accurate understanding). Some posts proceed from preparation work for courses that I teach: Pacific Northwest history and American Indian history.

It Starts with a Coupon
With a 30% off coupon burning through the denim, and the book(s) I sought out of stock, I went browsing. As a consequence I laid out a dozen bucks for a right-wing antithesis to Howard Zinn's marvelous diatribe.

I've spend the better part of one morning, as well as an hour or so the previous afternoon, reading the first ten pages or so of Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen, A Patriot's History of the United States: From Columbus's Great Discovery to the War on Terror (2004).

A long footnote purports to review the scholarship regarding aboriginal depopulation. Leaving aside its failure to mention William Denevan, Russell Thornton, and Jared Diamond, it cites one article and two books by reputable scholars that I'll need to examine before offering an assessment of the revisionist history offered in A Patriot's History. One book can be found in my city, and another a few miles away, but the nearest copy of the article appears to reside in Holland (not the dope smoking Netherlands, but a library in Pullman). A friend there is tracking down on my behalf Douglas Ubelaker, "North American Indian Population Size, A.D. 1500-1985," American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 77 (1988), 289-294.

Other Voices (Addendum)

Also see "Reader Response, Polls, Goals" (posted 18 March 2008).

Larry Schweikart, one of the authors of Patriot's, also has a blog. I started linking to it 18 August 2009.


Anonymous said...

James, I have added Zinn's work to my syllabus for next year; I am looking forward to teaching from it -- though i have to some degree already.

James Stripes said...

Hi Edward,

Thanks. Good to know. I trust your students will find Zinn's merits and the many weaknesses of his approach. Let me know how things go.

James Stripes said...

I accidentally deleted a comment when I was trying to correct my own typos. The deleted comment was:

Live n Learn Teacher said ...

Just found your site. I'm getting my American History curriculum together for my 9th grader and picked up A Patriot's History of the United States and started looking for a counter-point book. I'm not sure I want to use A People's History but I hope your site will help with the analysis as we read this book.

My apologies to Live n Learn Teacher.

James Stripes said...

Welcome. A Patriot's History is far more comprehensive than A People's History. On the other hand, Zinn's distortion through omission is vastly different than the gross misrepresentations of source material by Schweikart and Allen. Paul Johnson, A History of the American People, which Larry Schweikart praises, is a far more responsible history text with a conservative slant. When I strated this blog, I failed to anticipate the extent of academic dishonesty that I would find in A Patriot's History.

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