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A Renegade History of the United States

from Shelf Awareness

Shelf Starter: A Renegade History of the United States

A Renegade History of the United States by Thaddeus Russell (Free Press, $27, 9781416571063/141657106X, September 28, 2010)

This is a new story.

When American history was first written, it featured and often celebrated politicians, military leaders, inventors, explorers, and other “great men.” Textbooks in high school and college credited those goliaths with creating all the distinctive cultural and institutional characteristics if the United States. In this history from the top down, women, Indians, African Americans, immigrants and ordinary workers–in other words most Americans–seldom appeared. In the 1960s and 1970s, a new generation of scholars began to place labor leaders, feminists, civil rights activists, and others who spoke on behalf of the people at the center of the story. This became known as history “from the bottom up.” Yet more often than not, it seemed to me, the new stars of American history shared many of the cultural values and assumptions of the great men. They not only behaved like “good” Americans but also worked to “correct” the people they claimed to represent. They were not ordinary.

A Renegade History goes deeper. It goes beneath what the new “social history” portrayed as the bottom. It tells the story of “bad” Americans–drunkards, prostitutes, “shiftless” slaves and white slackers, criminals, juvenile delinquents, brazen homosexuals and others who operated beneath American society–and shows how they shaped our world, created new pleasures, and expanded our freedoms. This is history from the gutter up.–selected by Marilyn Dahl

[ click to read at Shelf-Awareness.com ]

Posted on September 28, 2010 by Editor

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