It seems that, 25 years ago, the author’s A People’s History of the United States was published, setting previously accepted concepts of that history by the ears and telling it like it really was. Zinn’s aim was to show that the American Dream had been achieved at huge cost – not to those who dreamed it but to the native American and imported populations. Authorities of all sorts worried whether a ‘young people’s’ edition would be ‘suitable’ for young dreamers. Well it seems the time is now right for the ‘disillusionment’ initially feared to be justified.
So we get a view of U.S. history through the wide end of the ’scope, which, as naturalists know, can act as a potent magnifier. Zinn pulls no punches in toppling C Columbus, T Roosevelt, T Jefferson, A Jackson and other permanent hall-of-fame residents from their pedestals, showing them to be the exploitive capitalists that progressive society can’t seem to live without.
I know little enough about transatlantic history to be able to evaluate his presented facts, but a read through this should produce a more objective American and a better-informed Brit. The ‘worthy American schoolbook’ style of production does little to attract its intended readership, so it’ll need pushing. One thing puzzles me, though; no mention of the most enlightened and articulate American of all – Benjamin Franklin. So how much else is missing?