Why American History Is Not What They Say: An Introduction to Revisionism
Jeff Riggenbach's book is a godsend for anyone who needs a crash course in revisionist history of the United States. What is revisionism? It is the retelling of history from a point of view that differs from the mainstream, which always treats the victor (the state) as glorious and the conquered (individual liberty) as deserving of its fate.
Obviously the libertarian telling of American history is going to be different. The state and its creations are not the heroes. The producers of capital, the average people, the voluntary society: these are the forces that make up civilization.
There is a massive literature of revisionist American history. It is so vast, in fact, that people whose field is economics, law, or philosophy can feel intimidated by it all, especially since this material is not taught in class. Must we accept the idea that the architects of the Constitution loved liberty, that Lincoln was a liberator, that the United States had to crush Spain in the late 19th century, that World War I was unavoidable, that the U.S. was always the good guy in the Cold War?
No, not at all, say the revisionists. They tell a version of events that turns every convention on its head. But there is yet another problem here: most of the major revisionist historians are writing from the point of view of the political left, and their interpretation is skewed by that bias. What Riggenbach does is offer a thoroughgoing critique of leftwing revisionism in favor of a distinctly libertarian form of revisionism.
This book is a roundup of the major figures and the most important books; it is also a clear-headed assessment of all the major controversies. What you get from this one book is what would otherwise take a student months or years of searching in the library to locate and learn. There has never been anything like it.
He covers the work of Kenneth Roberts, John Dos Passos, Gore Vidal, Harry Elmer Barnes, James J. Martin, Charles A. Beard, William Appleman Williams, Murray Rothbard, Thomas Woods, among many others. He weighs on the great issues of whether the Old Right was really part of the "right" and how the definitions of these terms change. He defends Thomas Woods against his critics among the mainstream while arguing that Woods is not a conservative at all but rather an old-style liberal.
This book is written in an engaging style, with the goal of sharing as much knowledge of this literature with the reader as is possible. In this way, this book opens up whole worlds you never knew existed.
There is no longer any reason to feel lost in the thicket of interpretation and reinterpretation. Like Virgil in the Inferno, Riggenbach is your guide.
- ONE — The Art of History
- I. Objectivity in History
- II. History and Fiction
- III. The Historical Fiction of Kenneth Roberts
- IV. The Historical Fiction of John Dos Passos
- TWO — The Historical Fiction of Gore Vidal: The "American Chronicle" Novels
- I. Burr and Lincoln
- II. 1876, Empire, and Hollywood
- III. Hollywood and The Golden Age
- THREE — The Story of American Revisionism
- I. The Birth of American Revisionism and the Rise of Harry Elmer Barnes
- II. Charles A. Beard and William Appleman Williams: From Progressivism to the New Left
- III. Harry Elmer Barnes and James J. Martin: From Progressivism to Libertarianism
- IV. James J. Martin: Historian and Pamphleteer
- V. The Libertarian Historians and Their Colleagues on the New Left
- FOUR — Some American Wars—Both Hot And Cold—Through Revisionist Eyes
- I. The U.S. Civil War—the Revisionist View
- II. America in the World Wars—A Revisionist Perspective
- III. A Revisionist Look at America in the Cold War
- FIVE — The Politics of the American Revisionists
- I. "Left" and "Right," "Conservative" and "Liberal," Differentiated Historically
- II. The Decline of American Liberalism—the Early Years
- III. Conservative Republicans and Liberal Democrats in 19th Century America
- IV. Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and the Triumph of Conservatism
- V. Herbert Hoover's New Deal
- VI. The Myth of the "Old Right"
- VII. The Goldwater Anomaly
- VIII. The Reagan Fraud—and After
- SIX — The New American History Wars
- I. Why Textbooks Matter
- II. The Breakdown of the Consensus—the Case of Howard Zinn
- III. American History According to Eric Foner
- IV. Thomas E. Woods, Jr. vs. Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen
- V. History, Fiction, and Objectivity—Some Concluding Observations
- Chapter 1
- Chapter 2
- Chapter 3
- Chapter 4
- Chapter 5
- Chapter 6
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