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historical criticism


  • Originally published 02/10/2010

    Howard Zinn's Disputed Legacy

    Rick Shenkman and Michael Kazin, writing six years apart, criticized Howard Zinn's historical method, and there is much to criticize.  It's true we have seen many, many instances of people at the bottom or in the middle, the masses of people, going along with those in power or even leading the charge in the wrong direction.  History is full of people rooting against their own class interests.  We see a lot of that today.So, historians rightly have arguments with A People's History.  It is not nuanced, it is not complex enough, it is wrong in particulars.  Or maybe you think it is leads people in the wrong direction altogether, creating "the left's blind spot."  Presumably, a bottom up view of history is pretty simple and absolves the masses from their culpability in the affairs of the state.

  • Originally published 06/09/2003

    Howard Zinn's Biased History

    Who is the most influential historian in America? Could it be Pulitzer Prize winners Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. or Joseph Ellis or David McCullough, whose scholarly works have reached a broad literary public? The answer is none of the above. The accolade belongs instead to the unreconstructed, anti-American Marxist Howard Zinn, whose cartoon anti-history of the United States is still selling 128,000 copies a year twenty years after its original publication. Many of those copies are assigned readings for courses in colleges and high schools taught by leftist disciples of their radical mentor.“Objectivity is impossible,” Zinn once remarked, “and it is also undesirable. That is, if it were possible it would be undesirable, because if you have any kind of a social aim, if you think history should serve society in some way; should serve the progress of the human race; should serve justice in some way, then it requires that you make your selection on the basis of what you think will advance causes of humanity.”History serving “a social aim” other than the preservation or interpretation of a historical record is precisely what we get in A People’s History of the United States. Howard Zinn’s 776 page tome, which after selling more than a million copies, has been recently re-released in a hardback edition.

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