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4.6 out of 5 stars82
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 7 May 2009
Although I have read a few histories of the United States this one had the scales falling from my eyes and smashing to smithereens on almost every page.

Never have I read an historical account that exposes the self-serving, elitist and hypocritical actions of government in such a brutal and frank way. That it happens to be about the USA is almost irrelevant given that most countries are guilty of the same hypocrisies and double standards that the US has been - certainly the UK has over its long history.

A book that leaves you shocked and angry about past and present deeds and embarrassed about the status quo.

It is a 'must read' book - even for non-Americans.
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on 27 March 2010
How do you simplify such a great book in such a short space? I am not a great reader, something has to grab me and say read me and keep reading me. I am about 60 pages from finishing this and its an amazing tale. It's not just history but pure story telling. An amazing account. It tells the the story from the other side of town. The effect decisions made by richer more powerful people had on the less fortunate. I can't begin to précis this work as its its truly outstanding. It will make your mind draw parallels with your own country and change your mind about how you have been told things really happened. Incredible!

Buy and enjoy now!
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on 20 May 2002
I found this book a fascinating and accessible read; it makes you want to read excerpts to anyone who happens to be in the same room as you. Zinn does not claim to be unbiased; in fact, he freely admits that he has written the book from the viewpoint of ordinary American people.
Zinn clearly expounds his theory on American government and its control over American society and how this control dates right back to the founding fathers. Zinn explores how many different groups have been manipulated and exploited: native American indians, negros, the working class, draftees, women, farmers, unionists, the middle class, etc., etc.
Further, he argues that the purpose of American foreign policy is, and has been, to protect and expand America’s commercial interests behind a mask of protecting democracy and freedom. Zinn explores America’s military interference in Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia and others.
This is one history book which is not in the least turgid and I would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in history, politics or people.
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on 18 March 2010
a brilliant read from start to finish. written with authority and care to engage the reader. superb.
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From a European perspective this is an insightful history of the United States. It starts from the first appearance of Europeans and has an emphasis on the people, how the people made history and how this history made them. In this book "people" should really be "peoples" as it includes not just the European immigrants but also the original inhabitants, the indentured and the enslaved.

From the perspective of a certain part of America, this is a commie-pinko, bleeding heart liberal, un-American piece of garbage; the perspective of another part of America made it a bestseller.

If you do not have a history of the US, I would recommend this book. However, you may find a short conventional history of the United States useful as a companion volume to anchor this book in a familiar time-line. If you already have a history of the US, you should buy this book and compare the two.

TAKING SIDES: In the first chapter the author sets out his approach to the history of the United States: ". . . in that inevitable taking of sides which comes from selection and emphasis in history, I prefer to try to tell the story of the discovery of America from the viewpoint of the Arawaks, of the Constitution from the standpoint of the slaves, of Andrew Jackson as seen by the Cherokees, of the Civil War as seen by the New York Irish, of the Mexican war as seen by the deserting soldiers of Scott's army, of the rise of industrialism as seen by the young women in the Lowell textile mills, of the Spanish-American war as seen by the Cubans, the conquest of the Philippines as seen by black soldiers on Luzon, the Gilded Age as seen by southern farmers, the First World War as seen by socialists, the Second World War as seen by pacifists, the New Deal as seen by blacks in Harlem, the postwar American empire as seen by peons in Latin America."

THE TONE of the book can be shown by the start of Chapter 4: "Around 1776, certain important people in the English colonies made a discovery that would prove enormously useful for the next two hundred years. They found that by creating a nation, a symbol, a legal unity called the United States, they could take over land, profits and political power from favourites of the British Empire. In the process, they could hold back a number of potential rebellions and create a consensus of popular support for the rule of a new, privileged leadership."

THE BOOK has 608 pages of text spread over 25 chapters plus a Bibliography of 20 pages. There are no Notes, footnotes, illustrations or maps. The original 1980 edition has been expanded to cover the 2000 election and the start of the "War on Terrorism."
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on 19 February 2010
The only time I have seen or heard Howard Zinn's 'People's History' mentioned in mainstream US media was in the film, 'Good Will Hunting', where Will (Matt Damon) looks through all the books in the office of his psychiatrist (Robin Williams) and tells him, `This is the only book worth reading here.'
The tragedy is that it is relatively unknown in the USA. Corporate control of the media (and legislature) means that the majority of US citizens seem to have very little idea of what their Government and military have been up to in the last two centuries.
'Peoples History' exposes with meticulous research and great clarity how the ruling elite of USA have single-mindedly pursued a policy of Americanisation of the whole planet. They have also used decidedly undemocratic methods to maintain their control over the political and economic institutions inside America itself. The irony is, the increasing use of invasion and occupation of sovereign countries is killing that very project, as well as hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.
Up until the Vietnam War, a considerable degree of Americanisation took place by `peaceful osmosis'. This was fine, it was not being imposed by force. And so many aspects of US society are progressive - visitors to USA invariably report Americans to be particularly open and hospitable people. USA does enjoy many social freedoms not found elsewhere. The problem is, too many Americans seem to be pretty ignorant of their own history and their government's foreign policy. This is equally true of every country in the world, like the UK where I live. But, in what is still the only economic and military superpower, it is much more dangerous.
Reading Zinn's brilliant book is crucial to rectifying this situation.
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on 5 October 2011
Even the very first paragraph show that the book is unique and a very fair approach to the history of the US.
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on 3 June 2013
Arcs over such a massive timeline, zooming in (giving detail) and out (fast-forwarding) where appropriate, thus maintaining the uniqueness of the approach, i.e. it avoids sounding like most other history (text)books.

Preference given to personal interpretations of representative individuals (would-be unknowns quoted directly), or to key historical figures, at various periods of the country's history.

A must read.
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on 28 December 2009
Unlike most history books I have read, this one I wanted to come back to. It felt like a naughty story, a gossip maybe, but certainly not like a dry history book.

The other side is interesting, and as a non American, I haven't been stuffed with the 'official' history of the USA. I know it from my own readings. This is different. Howard Zinn says in the first chapter, just after he talks about the first abusers of the Native Americans, that he is writing the history of the USA from the side of its citizens not politicians, and that is what comes back one chapter after the other.

I enjoyed reading it like no history book before. I know much more now why the USA is what it is now, and some of what affects the psyche of Americans.

A great read, I think if one will read one book on the history of the USA, this is very likely to be it.
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on 11 July 2014
It is very difficult to describe such a magnificent book in such a small space. It explains everything, do not deny shameful facts...
I think the easiest waydecribe it, is to recollect Matt Damon's answer about a good book: "It blows your hair back."
I reccomend it to everyone who is interested in the US history.
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