Howard Zinn's approach to history comes directly from his own life experience. He saw the baby boom part of the twentieth century history evolve before his eyes with major events, such as the Civil Rights Movement and the further activism that occurred thereafter, and the effects of the war on Vietnam with archival work, to name a few. HOWARD ZINN ON HISTORY is a collection of essays and articles previously published in notable journals and magazines, such as the Midwestern Archivist and Saturday Review. Zinn examines topics that have affected him academically as well as personally, and appear somewhat out dated but timeless at the same time because of how much has progressed from the time he originally wrote the pieces.
The book may serve as a teaching tool for a political or American history classes because of its small format. It is the type of book that will raise questions for the casual history reader as well as the any history major. However, there are serious political overtones that resonate with the majority of the essays that may suggest Zinn's revisionist perspective on history, but he exposes the study of history and the sum of its parts. Zinn states: "The scholar may swear to his neutrality on the job, but whether he be physicist, historian, or archivist, his work will tend, in this theory, to maintain the existing social order by perpetuating its values, by legitimizing its priorities, by justifying its wars, perpetuating its prejudices, contributing to its xenophobia, and apologizing for its class order" (p. 167).
Zinn opens the door to history as well as an inquiry into how it is shaped and formed. He probes important topics that have often been overlooked, which raises important questions, what can be considered history, and how long does it take to be history?