Howard Zinn: A People’s History portrays the self-proclaimed “social anarchist’s” views in a way that normal people can understand. Zinn, a historian and political scientist, wrote A People’s History in order to reveal what he considered an underrepresented version of American historical events. Why did he find this necessary?
Read on to learn about Howard Zinn’s motives behind this important book. You may not agree with his perspective. However, this is true of most great books! More importantly, we should strive to understand where he’s coming from in his views and to give them the chance they deserve to change our own.
The Other Side of History
Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “History is written by the victors.” It means that the groups who retain power get to decide how history will be perceived later. In most cases, this is not a conscious process on the part of a government. Rather, people do this to support their side, or for lack of opposing evidence. Therefore, history changes slowly as people learn to forget how to empathize with the other side. Alternate history becomes a reality.
Howard Zinn believes that nationalism sits proudly at the heart of these changes. Glorifying the victorious country, to him, represents the force that reshapes history in its favor. Thus, he sees a rigged game and wants to give us a look at the rules. He wrote A People’s History in the hope that we would beat the house, once we realized the unfairness of the game.
Regardless of what we do with the information Zinn presents, this anti-elitist perspective defines A People’s History. He doesn’t attribute it to one political party either: he tries to topple them all.
Howard Zinn A People’s History of the United States in the Modern Day
A People’s History came out in 1980. Therefore, we should ask the important question of whether it still holds any relevance 40 years later.
To do that, we have to look at who Zinn prioritizes over those more commonly championed in the history books. He looks at those who fought against slavery first, those who fought for worker’s rights, and those who denounced war. Hence, he doesn’t repeat stories of history’s more well-known heroes.
In other words, A People’s History wears its socialist nature proudly. It defies systems of profit, which Zinn believes are unconstitutional, in favor of worker’s strikes, rebellions, and rule by the people. How do you feel about all that? Well, maybe you’re not sure.
That’s a perfectly good reason to read A People’s History with an open mind and find out. Compare it to what you already know and ask yourself if the history you’ve learned has been manipulated, or if Zinn doesn’t know what he’s saying. For most of us, it’ll probably be a little of both!
Howard Zinn A People’s History of the United States remains a controversial book. Thus, it challenges the way history becomes fact, the way the winners manipulate the outcomes, and the way the people’s power works in this country.
He devoutly follows a socialist way of thinking to prioritize workers over employers, and populations over leaders. Consider what he says, compare it to what you know, and learn something you’ve never thought of, about history you thought you knew.