Saturday, June 26, 2004
Book of the month - A peoples History of the United States
Henry Kissinger once wrote: “History is the memory of states.” Howard Zinn has written “A people’s history of the United States” as the memory of ordinary people – of slaves, of the native (Indian) peoples, of women, and of the working poor.
To quote from the opening pages… “…this book will be skeptical of governments and their attempts, through politics and culture, to ensnare ordinary people in a giant web of nationhood pretending to a common interest…I don’t want to invent victories for people’s movements. But to think that history-writing must aim simply to recapitulate the failures that dominate the past is to make historians collaborators in an endless cycle of defeat. If history is to be creative, to anticipate a possible future without denying the past, it should, I believe, emphasise new possibilities by disclosing those hidden episodes of the past when, even if in brief flashes, people showed their ability to resist, to join together, occasionally to win. I am supposing, or perhaps only hoping, that our future may be found in the past’s fugitive moments of compassion rather than in its solid centuries of warfare. That, being as blunt as I can, is my approach to the history of the United States. The reader may as well know that before going on.”