A People's History of the United States

Fri 31 August 2018 by Thejaswi Puthraya

"History is written by the victors" goes a famous quote. Every reading of history should be treated with some scepticism. "A People's History of the United States" written by Howard Zinn narrates history not through the government's propaganda but through common people's movements.

The book opens with Christopher Columbus' armada reaching the shores of the Americas. Official sources will claim this as a historical event that changed the world and honour this hero. But the same event through the view of the native Americans will reveal widespread genocide.

The English start settling and expanding from the north-eastern shores to the west while constantly displacing and destroying the natives. The settlers slowly become politically concious and rebel against the Queen to gain independence. The "founding fathers" (most of whom happened to be landed and slave owners) framed a constitution that safeguarded the elite's interests.

Even before the independence, ship loads of slaves from Africa were being brought in by the rich land owners to work on their farms. The southern states of the US' rebelled over a proposal to ban slavery and the American Civil war broke out.

Within a few decades, the country was pulled into the First World War and upon conclusion, it's economy was in dire straits and culminated in the Great Depression. They slowly crept out of it only to get dragged into the Second World War which ended with the dropping of nuclear bombs on Japan.

After that it regularly flirted with wars in Vietnam, Cambodia, Korea, Kuwait, Iraq etc.

The book dives deep into the class-aspect of history. How the poor and the working class were disenfranchised from the beginning. Their struggles to get their voice heard and how administration after administration failed to make any difference.

The author admits that this book is biased; tilted in favour of the oppressed and goes against the grain. But it gives a new perspective into how we understand history.