When we look at how even our recent past has been corrupted by American school textbooks, we can see the vital role that The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History can play in helping to redress the imbalance.
For instance, virtually every text that you can get your hands on repeats the tired old myths about the Reagan years, most notably, that of the “Decade of Greed.” In systematically taking apart just this misconception, historian Thomas E. Woods, Jr., has provided a valuable service to readers of all ages.
Charitable giving rose by 55% during that “greedy decade,” Woods notes. He then exposes the so-called “Reagan budget cuts” for what they were–smaller spending hikes.
Fortunately, in this concise History, Woods goes even further back in time, to 1629 to be exact. Remarkably, in such a compact little tome, Woods gives clear references to his sources.
This record of attribution alone makes this Guide a much more valuable reference than the still widely-used Peoples’ History of the United States. In stark contrast to Howard Zinn’s puzzlingly celebrated Peoples’ History, Woods gives not only his sources but the actual words of America’s founding fathers and historical figures. Many of these quotes will shock students and graduates weaned on decades of standard histories.
Consider these historical sound bites:
- For the “Constitution as living document” types, Woods notes, “Thomas Jefferson advised in the 1790s that ‘our peculiar security is in possession of a written constitution,’ and warned Americans not to ‘make it a blank paper by construction.'”
- For the “Second Amendment as antique store relic” types, Woods gives us this haunting advisory from “George Mason, father of the Bill of Rights:” “What is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them.”
Woods also challenges interpretations of the Civil War that portray the conflict as a battle over slavery rather than as a confrontation between advocates of a union of states and proponents of states rights. Slavery was described as “a moral and political evil” by confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, Woods points out. Note the order of the modifiers that precede the word “evil.”
In stark contrast to the views of the two men that a major highway in Virginia is named after comes the startling observation of the commander of the Union Army. “If I thought this war was to abolish slavery,” Union General Ulysses S. Grant said, “I would resign my commission and offer my sword to the other side.”
Looking at a more recent conflict, Woods offers, in fewer pages, a more accurate reading of the history of the Cold War than many writers do. For example, he shows the espionage perpetrated by the former Soviet Union in the United States and names some of the key American officials who facilitated it. Besides Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs, Woods points out, declassified documents show that former Treasury Secretary Harry Dexter White and Lauchlin Currie, who worked in the White House under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, were implicated in Soviet activities in the United States.
On even a superficial level, this book helps to set the record straight about Soviet espionage in the United States. Woods notes that U.S. Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy (R.-Wis.) headed a Senate Committee that examined communist penetration of the federal government, not the House UnAmerican Activities Committee that investigated the Communist influence in the motion picture industry.
Woods is well qualified to write this American History. Holding a Ph. D. from Columbia University, he has contributed to encyclopedias as well as periodicals.
Prominent among the books he recommends is M. Stanton Evans The Theme Is Freedom: The Religious Roots of American Liberty (published by HUMAN EVENTS’ sister company Regnery). To his credit, even the secondary sources that Woods lists, such as The Theme Is Freedom, draw heavily upon primary source material, such as the writing of America’s founding fathers and our country’s historical documents. Too many volumes out of academia, particularly historical ones, do not follow this basic tenet of good scholarship and reputable journalism.
A friend recently said to me that there are good histories being written. Unfortunately, that observer noted, they are not being written by academics. The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History is a notable exception to that rule.