Howard Zinn's "A People's History of American Empire" graphic novel

Howard Zinn's A People's History of American Empire is a fantastic comic-book adaptation of Zinn's classic A People's History of the United States (the best and most important critical history of the life of everyday people in America from 1492 onward), a new edition illustrated by Mike Konopacki and aided by historian Paul Buhle. American Empire focuses on the history of American foreign policy, starting with the policy of conquering America itself, with brutal massacres like Wounded Knee.

Zinn is an uncompromising critic of the imperial history of America, the unilateral deeds of its leaders, the atrocities committed by its military and its contractors through Asia, Africa, Europe, and around the world. But the book is also part memoir, describing the emotional commitment to democracy and America that led him to join the military and fight in WWII in Europe -- a campaign that ended with the first-ever napalm drop on a village in France, roasting surrendered German soldiers waiting to be taken away to a POW camp.

Zinn is a fierce lover of democracy, of justice, and of freedom, and he makes it clear that America is a land divided by dreams of affluence (no matter the global cost) and dreams of liberty for all. As a wise man once said, "All countries fail to live up to their ideals. America fails to live up to better ideals than most." We can't forgive or forget the atrocities of Iran-Contra, My Lai, Wounded Knee, or the many other shameful moments in American imperial history, because the price of forgetfulness is fresh horrors, in Abu Ghraib, in Guantanamo, in Afghanistan.

Zinn shows us that loving American means taming her, controlling the plutocrats who assert the unilateral power to crush dissent, act in secret and go to war.

The comic book form is a great way of delivering this message, the spreads mix text, cartoons, reproductions of historical documents and photos, making the whole thing visual, dynamic, and absolutely captivating. A People's History of American Empire


  1. If I remember correctly, there’s been some aspersions cast on Zinn’s research, particularly his sources, by the mainstream history community. Back in high school, my (extremely liberal, head of Democrats Abroad Asia) AP History teacher told me that citing Howard Zinn’s work would immediately cast suspicion on my essays in terms of factual accuracy.

    This is not to say that Zinn’s critical self-reflection is not worth the read or consideration, but as with most historical works, I’d take it with a grain of salt.

  2. Cory, you know you have a terrible habit of mentioning things I would like to buy, like the day after I make a big Amazon order.

    Speaking of which, the last eight books of Y: The Last Man should be here tomorrow.

  3. As #3, I too had teachers who were skeptical of Zinn’s work. The difference was that mine were college professors, and citation of Zinn was explicitly banned from the class. They didn’t care what point you made or what direction you leaned, but you had to assert yourself using verifiable sources.

    While I’m all for a critical review of American history, I’m deeply skeptical of sweeping “holier-than-thou” arguments such as Zinn’s.

  4. anyone challenging him care to be specific? It’s easy to smear with “oh, you all KNOW,what I mean…”
    I always found him a bit of a sugar-coater.

  5. Anyone who would like to learn more about Zinn’s research methods is cordially invited to examine his papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison. A digital version of the Finding Aid is here.

    While you’re in Madison, you can take a gander at the Society’s collection of original Mike Konopacki political cartoons. Also? Don’t miss the yummy ice cream across the street.

  6. Znn’s grtst lss s tht Rss nvr cnqrd th Wst, h’s blnd fl nd knwn Cmm sympthzr snc th 60’s. H’s th drlng f th ltst Lfty Prfssrs plltng mny nvrsty ths dys. Tht n cmbntn s ngh t s why h’s wrth ttlly dsrgrdng.

    ‘v nvr sn th gy ldd by nyn xcpt cllg kds brnwshd by mrcn htng Prfssrs, nd sd sm kds dsprt t wn thr frst ntllctl cnvrstn snc lvng hm fr skl. Stpdst sht n th plnt n ll rspcts.

    f Znn hts th Wst s mch, nd hs sncrty s s cncrt, why ddn’t h jst mv t Rss whn t ws clr hs cs ws lst? Bcs h’s phny, lf s gd n th Wst, nd h’s nly wllng t sffr fr th cs f h cn ht Str Bcks r njy sm TV ftrwrd.

  7. I’ve taught Zinn in a college survey course, and students predictably either loved him or hated him, but at least it got them thinking (hard to do in a survey course, sometimes). I didn’t ask them to swallow his stuff whole, but to read it alongside other more conventional or “whiggish” histories to make a case for the constructed nature of historical writing. What is true about the past? How do historians manipulate that? I don’t think Zinn does it any more than any other historian, he just does it in more controversial, non-mainstream ways. Nice to see him reaching out to a different audience. The point of Zinn, in my mind, is to start a conversation, not to finish it.

  8. i’m just going to ignore the above.

    the criticisms i’ve seen launched at zinn (the reasonable ones, that is. contrast #8) have less to do with his research methodologies at such and more with a tendency towards cherry-picking and grandstanding: tactics familiar to pundits everywhere, on every point along the political spectrum.

    aside from that, i don’t really see why political commentary with 95% fewer words should be seen as progress.

  9. I’m currently reading Nieall Ferguson’s Empire, The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power. It a very nice history and packed with details. Rome is often referred to as a well understood example of Empire Building, along with New World powers like America. By all historic accounts, the building of America has been very tame when compared to other real empires.

  10. @12 – Yeah, the word “commie” and the “love it or leave it” -type statement caught my eye too.

  11. “why didn’t he just move to Russia ”

    Oh, blah blah. How many box-bound trolls have trotted that out, since, like, the beginning of time? Look at how Zinn makes us *all* question things. He would be(and no doubt is) thrilled that his work motivates people to root out the truth.

    Give me a specific passage and cite what really happened. We’ll all be a little wiser, and in your case, perhaps a lot more so.

  12. Zinn was supposed to be at NY Comic Con talking about this book back in April on a panel about but skipped out at the last minute due to a family emergency. The rest of the panel covered admirably. More political graphic novels => more educated populous. Who’s really read the 9/11 Commission?!

    From the NYCC program:


    Special Guest Howard Zinn will present his innovative new graphic novel People’s History of the American Empire, while Jonathan Hennessey will talk about his adaptation of the U.S Constitution and Sid Jacobsen and Ernie Colon will discuss their recent work to transform the 9/11 Commission’s report.

  13. Yeah, tell us what parts of Zinn you object to. Be specific now. We can’t let such things as his assertions of home-grown enslavement and genocide go unchallenged, now can we?

  14. perhaps this should be a troll free thread. I think the single poster knowitallguyfromgizmodo can be safely removed from the discussion.

  15. I’m currently in the depths of Zinn’s “People’s History” and I find it fascinating mostly because it’s a history that I was never taught. I’m sure that there are inconsistencies and methodology problems…but no more so than with the history that we’ve been force-fed. I think it’s a decent “other side of the coin” book and I’m no wet behind the ears collegian who is looking for a way to piss off conservatives.

  16. I KEEP TELLING YOU: DON’T FEED THE TROLLS! They usually fold up their shit bags and go away.

    Maybe the feeders, the enablers, should be removed for cluttering up the landscape. I’m all for hearing specific criticism or questions, but they’re not going to come from knowitallbullshitterfromquizmodo. Pretend he’s not here. It’s called shunning. It works.

  17. Despite the repeated calls for specific criticisms, I don’t actually have a copy of Zinn with me right now, so I’m afraid I can’t cite anything specific. Besides, high school was several years ago; I doubt I’m competent enough to speak about history intelligently any more.

    However, at some point in the future, I would like to go through Zinn’s book and examine his primary sources to the extent that I once did with a Noam Chomsky book, Failed States. After looking through a significant portion of the references, I found that many of Chomsky’s citations came from extreme-left opinion pieces and were presented in his book as fact. In particular, I remember his citing of one letter from the US head of Amnesty International that grossly overestimated the number of detainees in Guantanamo Bay and then advocated the arrest of the president Pinochet-style. Chomsky implied that the predictable backlash from anyone with a brain was because of American exceptionalism rather than common sense political unworkability.

    Don’t get me wrong, I respect both Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn for their views, but since much of Zinn’s work, while a commentary on the past rather than the present, resembles that of Chomsky, I find that taking a detailed second look and then applying some basic logic might shine them both in a new light.

  18. Facts. Facts trump logic. Logic is a semantic construct. A fact is a thumb in the eye. Play with logic all you want, but premises must be based on facts or logic fails..

  19. Anyone doubt that the current generation is the most reactionary in history? Just read any comment thread on Boing Boing.

  20. JTF – people don’t appreciate Zinn (and Chomsky, ftm) because of an edict from the state.

    People appreciate Zinn (and Chomsky, and Michael Moore, ftm) because they provide another window on America, distinct from the one promulgated in our High School civics classes.

    Assuming anyone takes their words as gospel fact says more about how you view your own primary sources, and the skepticism you bring to those you agree with, than it does about Zinn (or Chomsky, or Moore, or Al Gore, ftm).

  21. #25, this generation is the most reactionary in what regard? Poor impulse control? Bad frustration response? A bewildering sense of entitlement? Where is this generation protesting the war? Which campus is really tearing it up over the current administration’s horrifically bad forecasting skills, in almost every sector? Has there been a young march on DC while I wasn’t looking? Please, if you want reactionary, study our civil war. Or more to current history, the Viet nam War. Are you ready to go to war over something?

  22. After reading A People’s History, I asked my uncle about it, because he was a professor of American History. He said that the events described were accurate, but the characterization of the events were biased.

    There. That settles that.

  23. Hi Everybody,

    I think I can elaborate on the criticism towards Zinn’s works and I’ll use a specific example. And let me start by saying that I enjoy his writing and share many of his opinions.
    It’s not so much what he says, as it is about how he goes about organizing a scholarly work. I happen to have in front of me a copy of Zinn’s “Postwar America: 1945 – 1971”. I’ve opened the book at random to find the following passage:

    p. 232 “Parents and children found themselves in a conflict. Some called it “the generation gap,” but there had always been a chronological difference; the conflict in the sixties was deeper. It both intensified hostility and speeded up changes in attitude, as crises and conflict tend to do. A woman named Marina Matteuzzi wrote to the Boston Globe one day in 1967 about how that conflict had changed her…”

    Ok. An extended quotation follows about her hippie son leaving home for frisco etc. etc. but by now I’ve lost my concentration on the quote because the following words remain in my mind: “one day”

    One day? Which day? The book lacks footnotes, endnotes and a bibliography. In the back of the book there are single spaced elaborations for each chapter that do not refer back to the page number of the main text. Within the corresponding ‘section’ to this passage the only references to the Globe are:

    “The two commencement stories in the Boston Globe appeared in May, 1970.”


    “Pentagon figures on fragging incidents in Vietnam were given in the Boston Globe, April 21, 1971.”

    Neither seem to apply to the portion of text above, and even taking those citations by themselves, narrowing the publication date down to the month is not acceptable even for undergraduate term papers. I didn’t hunt for this example- it was on the first page, in the first paragraph I consulted at random.

    The writing is simply convoluted. This is what historians have a problem with. Any historical assertion must be cited in scholarly work. The lack of citation casts doubt of credibility and works against the argument of the text.

    This is why his work is disregarded by his peers. It’s not because of his views, it’s because of his handling of information. It’s a shame really that he didn’t approach his research and presentation style more seriously.

    Long winded but hope it helps anyway. /runs to fridge for cold beer/

  24. MDHATTER @26 “JTF – people don’t appreciate Zinn (and Chomsky, ftm) because of an edict from the state.”
    Eh? To what edict are you refering?

    Takuan @32 If your referring to #31 above you, then your being silly. Proper citation of sources is critical to any scholarly work, and, really, any sort of useful discourse. Hell, people are asked to cite sources *here*, its not too much to properly cite your sources in what is supposed to be a scholarly work.

  25. At some point, possibly sometime after late January of next year, would someone please alert me via electrical mail when it’s safe to admit that I actually enjoy most aspects of living in the US?

    Thanks! :D

  26. where to start?

    @34 .. i doubt the purpose of zinn’s work is to stop you enjoying living in the united states, but to realize the cost (in human suffering) at which it came and that our history is very dark, rather than buying into false national myths about spreading freedom, liberty and justice.

  27. @8: Not saying that life is good in the east (infact, the poor have gotten poorer since the collapse), but I don’t think “life is good in the west” needs to be the reason to stay. maybe zinn has something called empathy, which is why he tolerates this west he “hates so much” and wants to stay here to speak out against injustice? Or maybe he hang around just to annoy you…

  28. Zinn is has been rightly criticized for tainting his historic view with his own very extreme anti-US political views. The man is much more of a political activist then historian. Activism and scholarship mix like religion and science.

    Zinn’s works are especially popular with young college students who are eager to hear an “alternative” view of history, but most mainstream historians won’t give him the time of day. His most famous book, the book that this comic is based on, is regularly dismissed as a mostly unsophisticated record of relentless exploitation of the oppressed.

  29. guess as an infrequent post-er i’m trolling here, too. if i may:
    a comic book treatment of zinn’s book, you say? nah, hate it when sarcasm is too easy. so let me just say – so many of my old friends thought it should have been a text book, i was never swept up by it, though he throws some daggers & he ain’t wrong. my feeling always was that he’s trying to lay a guilt trip on us. thought that was religion’s job.
    and no, don’t think young kiddo’s today are reactionary. self-righteous, maybe, but you shoulda got a load of yours truly in my teens & 20’s

  30. @27: It might have been a good idea to look up the word “reactionary” before belligerently agreeing with me.

  31. ”Reactionary” isn’t the only good term banished from political and public discourse by the msm over the last thirty years. They also did away with the working class. Listen to Lou Dobbs squirming around with such portmanteau attempts as ”The working middle class” or ”middle class working people.” The Right has its own political correctness, and the result was and is the creation of its own cosmetic euphemisms to put a happy face on American capitalism.

  32. In clarification of my comment in @26 above

    I said: people don’t appreciate Zinn (and Chomsky, ftm) because of an edict from the state.”

    (as they do with the heroes of Chinese state Communist ‘civics’ which they are taught, by the state)(it is also a “don’t” statement, preceding a series of “do” statements).

    Carry on.

  33. “anti-US” is not equivalent to “anti-US government policies”. This is also true about Israel.

  34. I’m thinking of getting the hell out of the US. Anyone have any dream locales to suggest? Someplace in Europe, perhaps the UK?
    I know there’s an ex-pat guidebook out, but does anyone have any practical first hand advice?

    1. I know there’s an ex-pat guidebook out, but does anyone have any practical first hand advice?

      After reading Getting Out, my advice is to be young and/or rich and/or heterosexual. Most countries don’t want you unless you’ve got enough cash to support yourself, you’ve got plenty of work years left in you or you marry a citizen (and that last one’s dicey.)

  35. In a world where it’s not always easy to know who to believe, I tend to follow a simple rule: Be skeptical of those in power.

    Does this mean that people like Zinn and Chomsky are always going to give us nothing but the truth? Of course not. They have their own agendas and ideologies and biases.

    While we can dispute some of the statistics, it’s beyond question that US foreign policy is, and has been virtually from the beginning, atrocious, in the literal sense of filled with atrocities. Just look at what our government did to Latin America during the Reagan and Bush I administrations, for a recent example.

    Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act (which, like the 1st Amendment, is a reason to be proud of US democracy, despite what other faults it may have), you can actually look at formerly classified insider documents for partial confirmation of claims about US foreign policy. They’re sometimes amazingly explicit about US imperialist ambitions. I can’t speak so much for Zinn, but I know Chomsky often relies on these kinds of documents.

    A final word on anti-US sentiment: people don’t hate the US (or its government) on a whim or simply because “they’re jealous” or something like that. There are reasons for terrorism, some of which may actually constitute legitimate complaints (which is not to say that they justify a violent response).

    If we actually cared about reducing the threat of terrorism, we would try to address its underlying causes (i.e., US foreign policy in the middle east, esp. w/rt Israel). I don’t understand why it is so difficult for people to see the idiocy of trying to end terrorism through warfare.

    You don’t pacify a nest of angry hornets by hitting it indiscriminately with a stick. You can either kill the lot of ’em (i.e., commit genocide) or try to figure out what got them so riled up in the first place and stop doing whatever that is. The second option has the advantage of being a lot less messy.

  36. Oh, but the heterosexual part has to do with marriage, right? I would be taking my wife and daughter with me…

  37. Antinous, my answer precedes yr original reply. And, just like that, the world seems new once again. O, mystery!

  38. i love my country. i loathe most of what my ‘government’ does, and has been doing in my name, since pretty much the beginning. on paper, it all looks grand, but in reality, there was slavery, genocide, and the violent (and sometimes horrifically so) overthrow of sovereign nations, some even democratically elected. the ideals this nation was founded on ; all men created equal, 3 basic human rights; life liberty, the pursuit of happiness. separation of church and state, freedoms of the press, speech, religion,and the right to bear arms. but mostly the u.s. was founded on the right to dissent. the fact that if we feel our govt is effin up, we can step up, through protest, civil disobedience, boycotts, even “refresh(ing) the tree of libety with the blood of patriots and tyrants” every so often. Bless authors such as zinn, and even chomsky who have the balls to stand up to the people that would have us give up these rights for a measure of false ‘security’. one thing i know is this: if any other country tried to do to the u.s. what the u.s. does to other countries, i would be out there everyday trying to make life miserable for them (i.e. guerrilla war, baby!).

  39. “You don’t pacify a nest of angry hornets by hitting it indiscriminately with a stick. You can either kill the lot of ’em (i.e., commit genocide) or try to figure out what got them so riled up in the first place and stop doing whatever that is. The second option has the advantage of being a lot less messy.”

    I prefer to soak hornets’ nests in poison, rather than just whack at them with a damn twig. Also, if what I’ve done to rile them up is simply go out on my back deck, well, fuck them, they have to die. Poo Poo Platter, out.

  40. Conservative Daniel Flynn has a lengthy criticism of A People’s history here. Some of it’s good, some of it’s nonsense (Flynn’s criticism that is).

    What I think Flynn is very right about is how Leftist’s like Zinn respond to biased history. Rather than trying to minimize bias, they celebrate it and want more of it . . . just from their perspective (I’m treading on thin ground here since typically this sort of comment gets me disemvoweled at BB.)

    Flynn digs up this quote from Zinn to illustrate,

    “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.”

    Now unbiased history is impossible, but do we need to intentionally add in extra bias to meet whatever aim we think history should serve? That’s hagiography, not history.

  41. Mintphresh, those are stirring words that deliver a glancing blow after 37 years of living in this country. Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s pretty much conditioned me to doubt the very concept of a “future” (and yet the days keep on coming, strangely).
    But yes true and genuine, non-commodified dissent is an awesome and underused thing. I’m still open to suggestions about someplace else; anyone? Not Costa Rica, please.

  42. “Also, if what I’ve done to rile them up is simply go out on my back deck, well, fuck them, they have to die.”

    The problem is that Latin America, the middle east, southeast Asia, etc., are not the United States’ back deck. When we intervene in these areas, we’re in someone else’s backyard.

    This metaphor is becoming strained, so let me be more straightforward. When we mess with the affairs of other countries, we should not be surprised if the people of these countries, and others who are worried that the same might happen to them, become pissed off at us. If we want them no longer to be pissed off at us, why not try leaving them alone and see what happens?

  43. Now unbiased history is impossible, but do we need to intentionally add in extra bias to meet whatever aim we think history should serve?

    Has anybody ever not used warped history as a tool? I fail to see how you can level that as a criticism of the left without saying the same thing about the right. I’d almost be tempted to say that you’re using warped history as a tool to further your own political agenda.

  44. Buddy

    It has been some years since I read it, but my recollection was that he would describe the struggle between the many and the few — say, miners and mine owners — and whenever someone powerful, like an owner or a governor or a president, did the “right” thing, they did it only because they were forced to by the righteous people. The reader is to believe that the powerful always have bad motives, and good outcomes only come from the People’s righteous fortitude.

  45. “The problem is that Latin America, the middle east, southeast Asia, etc., are not the United States’ back deck. When we intervene in these areas, we’re in someone else’s backyard.”

    “This metaphor is becoming strained, so let me be more straightforward. When we mess with the affairs of other countries, we should not be surprised if the people of these countries, and others who are worried that the same might happen to them, become pissed off at us. If we want them no longer to be pissed off at us, why not try leaving them alone and see what happens?”

    Interesting points. However, I don’t remember when we messed with the affairs of the country of Al Qaeda. Yet they got pissed and messed with our affairs. When the country of Al Qaeda intervened in NYC and DC, our embassies, and on the Cole, they were on our back deck.
    Is isolation the answer? I think we should intervene somehow in Darfur. Would the Sudanese regime then be justified getting pissed off at us and messing with our affairs?
    We probably should have messed with the affairs of Rwanda a decade ago. Instead we left them alone and saw that shitloads of people were massacred. At least they weren’t pissed off at us, though.
    We of course should try to treat everyone as fair as possible, but we should also not think that there will come a time when at least a significant portion of the world isn’t pissed off at us.

  46. @#25 – There are no edicts from the state that I remember telling me to disregard Zinn. Given that I went to an American international school in a repressive country, I believe there were more edicts from the state egging the ultra-liberal historians on than anything else.

    I assume people take their words as gospel because people do. These people are called my parents and grandparents, one of whom first handed me A People’s History. Interesting that you label me “reactionary,” though. I merely dislike propaganda of any kind, whether it’s from FOX or from MSNBC.

  47. “I don’t remember when we messed with the affairs of the country of Al Qaeda.”

    Then go learn and come back later.

  48. HAGDARD,

    Do you know any U.S. labor history?

    I will assume, for the hell of it, that you work, or have worked, at a job with ”benefits.” Medical, dental, seniority, pensions, etc. None of those benefits were ”given” by employers, whether private, corporate, or government; they were won by people who created and organized entities called ”unions” to represent them in negotiations for working conditions, wages, and benefits.

    During the 1930s and the immediate post-war years, the union movement grew and workers from every trade and industry organized. Eventually the simple THREAT to organize led businesses to offer similar wages and benefits so they wouldn’t themselves get organized and undergo labor strife and unrest. None of the benefits offered today — NONE — were offered by companies or corporations or organizations out of the goodness of their hearts. They were won either through the act of labor organization or the threat of it. Every person working today who receives such “benefits” does so through the past efforts of masses of organized people who literally changed America.

    Old labor hands call such people today “free riders.” “You’re getting the ride for nothing”, they say. School teachers, postal workers, social workers, municipal employees, everybody . . . free riders.

    Howard Zinn tells of those times, those union people. He considers them heroes.

    So do I.

  49. Buddy

    I’m sorry if anything I wrote caused you to feel I needed that lecture.

    When I wasn’t a code jockey, I was a member of the UFCW. My father was on bargaining committees for his union.

    I happen to be the Chomsky-loving, Zinn-loving, Nader-loving, Greider-loving, Kinzer-loving, Moyers-loving sort. The sort who’s unhappy that the Democratic Party has moved to the right of Nixon.

    And I happen to believe that my uncle the history professor is somewhat establishmentarian (though I suspect the Bush Administration has shaken his faith in US institutions).

    I agree with you completely that much or even most of what is good and progressive stuff has happened through the actual struggle of the many against the few. I’d say that too many people today think that such struggle is behind us.

    But I stand by my description of the nature of the bias in A People’s History. The bias is in the characterizations, not the actions. Sometimes, some politicians do the right thing because they believe it is the right thing. Unless Zinn can produce a letter written by some politician saying, “I would have gotten way with it, if it weren’t for those meddling kids!” then he is making up the motivations behind the actions.

  50. @65 (Takuan): I love your response, but he probably won’t get it.

    More concretely: the history of Israel/Palestine is a good place to start looking. The US alliance with Israel has probably cost us a lot more than it’s worth.

    FWIW, I don’t think the US should intervene militarily in Darfur either, especially not unilaterally. In truth, I’m skeptical of any powerful nation-state intervening in the affairs of weaker countries. Wars are always said to be fought either “in self-defense” or “for humanitarian reasons”–but if we look at history, there’s little reason to believe politicians who make such claims, whether they’re Russian, Chinese, German, American, or whomever. This is not to say that war is never justified. It’s just that, in practice, it usually hasn’t been.

    I’m not really familiar with the details of Darfur in particular, I’m afraid, but I do know that the situation in Kosovo, to give an example of a purportedly “justified” war, was a good bit more complex than it was made out to be (for instance, the full scale “ethnic cleansing” did not begin until after NATO’s intervention began).

    Here’s another general rule of thumb I like to follow: war is bad and should be avoided except when absolutely necessary. If our only response to dealing with world problems is warfare, something is terribly wrong. In Washington, however, it’s a bipartisan consensus that the US can go around and start wars wherever its interests lie (Clinton articulated a principle very much along these lines well before the so-called “Bush Doctrine”).

    I mean, highfalutin principles aside, let me put in terms of simple self-interest. We would just fare so much better domestically as a nation if we left other countries the fuck alone. But when you spend more on “defense” than any other country in the world, there’s a decent chance you’re going to want to put that money to work. Is it any wonder that the US gets involved in some war or other every couple of years (at least since WW II)?

  51. the “defense” is always in the interests of business and resource acquisition/control. Can you imagine how formidable a military machine the USA would have today if all that money spent actually went into improving it?

  52. Just a naggling terminology point about this book, but I figure a non-political comment would be welcome here, too.

    Having read this book, I don’t really think it’s an “adaptation” of People’s History of the United States, so much as an original work that draws heavily upon that work, various other Zinn works and outside, original research to construct its’ content. It actually stands on its own pretty well, from the perspective of someone who’s read PHOTUS–there’s plenty of new discussion and info in this book that isn’t in Zinn’s masterwork. It’s not really an adaptation so much as a completely original non-fiction graphic narrative.

    Also, the creative team (minus Zinn, obviously) also did a fascinating looking (haven’t gotten to read it) graphic history of the Wobblies that’s worth a look. It’s one of the sources for this book, in fact.

  53. @#67 hagbard,

    I didn’t realize I was lecturing; I thought I was reciting history and explaining Zinn’s bias. But since I used to lecture for a living, I will accept that mild admonishment and apologize if it discomfited you. I remember certain students who objected to the recitation of facts, calling them propaganda or worse. I should not, I suppose, have interfered with their education.

    I am glad that you are on the side of the angels, as am I, and agree wholeheartedly that people who don’t know their own history are in a regrettable position. If they don’t know where they’ve been, how can they know where they’re going?

    I can think of a few principled stands by politicians. Harry Truman integrated the armed forces six months before election day, against the advice of most of his advisors, because, as he said, ”It is the right thing to do.” Ditto with the much-despised LBJ (because of Vietnam) and the Civil Rights Act of 1965. But I can think of no ”captain of industry” who ever did the right thing without being either forced or shamed into doing so. The force they represent, Capitalism, is impersonal and knows neither good nor evil. We dance with them that brung us.

    My regards to your father. Solidarity forever!

  54. Buddy


    Something I should have added: despite the bias, I think A People’s History should be read and taught from. The historical facts he covered aren’t getting covered elsewhere (or weren’t when I was in school. Kids these days!).

    Have you read Lies My Teacher Told Me? It’s about the political and economic processes that have led to history textbook being so watered down as to be bland and unappealing to students.

  55. JTF – I believe you missed the clarification I made just a few comments later when BBAMN asked for one.

    Fair enough. You misunderstood that one sentence, and ran with it. Please check above for my clarification of that sentence.

  56. Scholars and old people have problems with Zinn because they’re not his target audience. College undergrads are. It’s a pop history book, in spite of all the footnotes.

    A People’s History is the best historical book I’ve ever read. Not because it’s accurate or well written, but because it has the power to _completely_ turn your world view upside down if happen to pick it up at the right time and place.

    There’s such a sheer volume of eye poking at conventional history that a smarmy, slightly right-of-center 19 year old reader is forced to ask themselves if they’ve been brainwashed. That’s a good thing.

    I don’t agree with some of what he has to say. I don’t see a deliberate plan to keep the poor man down, even if that’s how things play out. However, the book changed my understanding of the world for the better and has stuck with me for over a decade. So, like, Hooray for Zinn!

  57. I suspect many who snipe at Zinn unabashedly swallowed what their Sunday school teachers handed them.

Comments are closed.