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Zinn for Beginners

David Cogswell

Average Review Rating Average Rating 9/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : For Beginners

Published : 2009

Copyright : David Cogswell 2009

ISBN-10 : PB 1-934389-40-4
ISBN-13 : PB 978-1934389-40-9

Publisher's Write-Up

An essential guide to one of the most vital contemporary historians. Howard Zinn has led a revolution in writing history by telling the story not from the standpoint of the rulers, but of the individual and the masses. Zinn tells the story of Columbus from the perspective of the native people who he terrorised for gold; of the Civil War from the slaves and civilians who lost their lives at the hands of generals and of the Spanish-American war from the perspective of Mark Twain. Zinn's fresh, bold new take on history has earnt him a devoted following.

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Review by Paul Lappen (310310) Rating (9/10)

Review by Paul Lappen
Rating 9/10
This is a short and very readable biography of Howard Zinn, historian and author of the classic A People’s History of the United States.

He was born in 1922 in the Lower East Side of New York. His father, Eddie, worked a number of jobs, but could never escape poverty. From an early age, Zinn realized that the assertion that anyone could become successful with hard work, and that poor people were lazy, was nonsense. Zinn was a voracious reader, devouring writers like Charles Dickens, Jack London and Upton Sinclair.

In early 1940, he experienced his moment of radicalisation. After seeing what predatory capitalism had done to America, causing a depression which made millions homeless, many people thought that communism was a humane alternative. Zinn was never a member of the Communist Party, but he marched in a peaceful demonstration that was suddenly, and violently, broken up by the police. Zinn was knocked unconscious by a policeman’s baton. When he woke up, he realized that the police serve those in power, not protect the public. All that stuff about freedom of speech, and the right to peacefully assemble, could be ignored by the powerful at any time.

As a bombardier in World War II, he participated in a bombing raid on a French town called Royan, just before the end of the war. It was on the French coast, when the war was inside Germany, so it was of no military value. Several thousand German troops were there, waiting for the end of the war. Over one thousand planes dropped tons and tons of napalm on the town, and for what?

After the war, he got his education through the GI Bill, and his first full-time teaching job was at Spelman College, an all-black women’s college in Atlanta. This was right in the middle of the early segregation struggle. For several years, Zinn was involved in the push for civil rights, until he was fired by Spelman College, even though he had tenure. He eventually landed at Boston University, where he became one of the school’s most popular teachers. He continued to write, and get involved in opposition to the Vietnam War. Through out his teaching career, Zinn was not impressed with the quality of history textbooks. None gave the story of the common people, so, in 1980, A People’s History of the United States came into existence. It has sold over 2 million copies, and is still in print.

This book contains a 60-page summary of some of the 'highlights' of A People’s History, for those who might be intimidated by its several hundred page length. This book is easy to read, it’s an eye-opener, and it’s a first-class piece of writing.
Paul Lappen (31st March 2010)

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