Don't Know Much About History: Everything You Need to Know About American History but Never Learned

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A new, completely revised, expanded and updated edition of the million-selling New York Times bestseller that launched the entire Don't Know Much About series. When Don't Know Much About History first appeared thirteen years ago, it created a sensation. With humor, wit, great stories, and a trademark conversational style, the book brought Americans a fresh new take on history. Shattering myths and vividly bringing the past to life, it spent thirty-five consecutive weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. ...
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Don't Know Much About History: Everything You Need to Know About American History but Never Learned

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Overview

A new, completely revised, expanded and updated edition of the million-selling New York Times bestseller that launched the entire Don't Know Much About series. When Don't Know Much About History first appeared thirteen years ago, it created a sensation. With humor, wit, great stories, and a trademark conversational style, the book brought Americans a fresh new take on history. Shattering myths and vividly bringing the past to life, it spent thirty-five consecutive weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Davis proved that Americans don't hate history -- they just hate the dull textbook version they were force-fed in school. The book became an instant classic, an "anti-textbook" that has sold more than 1.3 million copies. In his irreverent and popular question-and-answer style, Davis now returns with a completely revised edition that brings history right up to the moment -- covering such topics as the end of the Cold War, Clinton's impeachment, the bizarre election of 2000, and the events that led to September 11.

Incorporating new research and discoveries, Davis also updates and expands on such long-standing American controversies as the Jefferson-Hemings affair, the Alger Hiss trial, and the Rosenberg spy case. And he includes an expanded "civics lesson" that examines some of America's hottest social and political issues, such as the death penalty, gun control, and school prayer. For history buffs and history-phobes alike, longtime fans who need a refresher course, and for a new generation of Americans who are still in the dark about America's past, Davis proves once more why People magazine said, "Reading him is like returning to the classroom of the best teacher you ever had."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Davis, author of the trademarked series of Don't Know Much About primers, seeks to dispel public boredom and ignorance about history and correct mistakes about various historical events in this update of his bestselling survey of American history. He arranges the book around a series of short essays on questions ranging from the basic (e.g., "Why did the southern states secede from the United States?") to the esoteric ("What was Teddy Roosevelt's grandson doing in Iran?"), intended to crystallize larger themes in our country's past. Davis's engaging treatment is spicy but judicious. He notes sex scandals from Alexander Hamilton's to Bill Clinton's, tamps out JFK conspiracy theories and speculation about J. Edgar Hoover's cross-dressing, and debunks myths like the legend of Betsy Ross and the movie Mississippi Burning. He provides sharply drawn, even-handed accounts of controversies, and his verdicts are generally well considered. Unfortunately, because discussions are usually tied to colorful personalities, heroic movements and dramatic crises, processes that are quiet but profound, such as the post-war rise of suburbia and the decline of unions, tend to get slighted. There's lots of history to browse through here, but little historiography to tie it together; while the book is far superior to standard high-school treatments, and a valuable reference for students young and old, it still leaves the impression that history is just one damn thing after another. (Apr. 1) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This latest in Davis's popular "Don't Know Much About" series is a revised and expanded edition of the series' first title (1990). Using the same question-and-answer format, the new edition includes over 200 pages of additional material covering the past 13 years-from one Bush administration to another, including the fall of communism, the dot-com bubble, the 2000 election, and the 9/11 attack. Davis has also inserted new questions into many chapters, included more "American Voices" (using contemporary quotes), and added a new appendix to the section on the Bill of Rights and other amendments. Davis covers U.S. history with a balanced and contemporary voice, shedding light on many legends, myths, and inaccuracies (e.g., Pocahontas did not save Capt. John Smith's life; the first President of the United States was John Hanson of Maryland, elected President under the Articles of Confederation). The book makes for fun reading for history buffs but is not for the scholar. With enough new material to warrant purchase, it is recommended for public libraries.-Robert Flatley, Kutztown Univ. of Pennsylvania Lib. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-Kenneth C. Davis uses wit, candor, and fascinating facts to reveal the very human side of history the textbooks neglect.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380712526
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/1/1991
  • Series: Don't Know Much About Series
  • Pages: 478
  • Lexile: 1270L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.46 (w) x 8.06 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Meet the Author

Kenneth C. Davis is the New York Times bestselling author of A Nation Rising; America's Hidden History; and Don't Know Much About® History, which spent thirty-five consecutive weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, sold more than 1.6 million copies, and gave rise to his phenomenal Don't Know Much About® series for adults and children. A resident of New York City and Dorset, Vermont, Davis frequently appears on national television and radio and has been a commentator on NPR's All Things Considered. He blogs regularly at www.dontknowmuch.com.

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Table of Contents

Preface to the Revised Edition ix
Introduction xi
Author's Note xxiii
Chapter 1 Brave New World 1
Chapter 2 Say You Want a Revolution 47
Chapter 3 Growth of a Nation: From the Creation of the Constitution to Manifest Destiny 107
Chapter 4 Apocalypse Then: To Civil War and Reconstruction 183
Chapter 5 When Monopoly Wasn't a Game: The Growing Empire from Wild West to World War I 253
Chapter 6 Boom to Bust to Big Boom: From the Jazz Age and the Great Depression to Hiroshima 319
Chapter 7 Commies, Containment, and Cold War: America in the Fifties 397
Chapter 8 The Torch Is Passed: From Camelot to Hollywood on the Potomac 437
Chapter 9 From the Evil Empire to the Axis of Evil 533
Afterword 589
Appendix 1 The Bill of Rights and Other Constitutional Amendments 595
Appendix 2 Is the Electoral College a Party School? A Presidential Election Primer 618
Appendix 3 U.S. Presidents and Their Administrations 624
Selected Readings 631
Acknowledgments 657
Index 659
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First Chapter

Don't Know Much About History
Everything You Need to Know About American History but Never Learned

Chapter One

Brave New World

Who really "discovered" America?

If he wasn't interested in the Bahamas, what was Columbus looking for in the first place?

Did Columbus's men bring syphilis back to Europe?

So if Columbus didn't really discover America, who did?

Okay, the Indians really discovered America. Who were they, and how did they get here?

If Columbus was so important, how come we don't live in the United States of Columbus?

What became of Christopher Columbus?

Where were the first European settlements in the New World?

If the Spanish were here first, what was so important about Jamestown?

What was the Northwest Passage?

What was the Lost Colony?

When and how did Jamestown get started?

Did Pocahontas really save John Smith's life?

What was the House of Burgesses?

Who started the slave trade?

Who were the Pilgrims, and what did they want?

What was the Mayflower Compact?

Did the Pilgrims really land at Plymouth Rock?

Highlights in the Development of New England

Who started New York?

Did the Indians really sell Manhattan for $24?

How did New Amsterdam become New York?

When did the French reach the New World?

Why is Pennsylvania the Quaker State?

What were the thirteen original colonies?

Few eras in American history are shrouded in as much myth and mystery as the long period covering America's discovery and settlement. Perhaps this is because there were few objective observers on hand to record so many of these events. There was no "film at eleven" when primitive people crossed the land bridge from Asia into the future Alaska. No correspondents were on board when Columbus's ships reached land. Historians have been forced instead to rely on accounts written by participants in the events, witnesses whose views can politely be called prejudiced. When it comes to the tale of Pocahontas, for instance, much of what was taught and thought for a long time was based on Captain John Smith's colorful autobiography. What is worse, history teachers now have to contend with a generation of prepubescent Americans who have learned a new myth, courtesy of the Disney version of Pocahontas, in which a sultry, buxom Indian maiden goes wild for a John Smith who looks like a surfer dude with Mel Gibson's voice. Oh well.

This chapter covers some of the key events during several thousand years of history. However, the spotlight is on the development of what would become the United States, and the chapter ends with the thirteen original colonies in place.

Who really "discovered" America?

"In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue." We all know that. But did he really discover America? The best answer is, "Not really. But sort of." A national holiday and two centuries of schoolbooks have left the impression of Christopher Columbus as the intrepid sailor and man of God (his given name means "Christ-bearer") who was the first to reach America, disproving the notion of a flat world while he was at it. Italian Americans who claim the sailor as their own treat Columbus Day as a special holiday, as do Hispanic Americans who celebrate El Día de la Raza as their discovery day.

Love him or hate him -- as many do in light of recent revisionist views of Columbus -- it is impossible to downplay the importance of Columbus's voyage, or the incredible heroism and tenacity of character his quest demanded. Even the astronauts who flew to the moon had a pretty good idea of what to expect; Columbus was sailing, as Star Trek puts it, "where no man has gone before."

However, rude facts do suggest a few different angles to his story.

After trying to sell his plan to the kings of Portugal, England, and France, Columbus doggedly returned to Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain, who had already given Columbus the thumbs-down once. Convinced by one of their ministers that the risks were small and the potential return great, and fueled by an appetite for gold and fear of neighboring Portugal's growing lead in exploration, the Spanish monarchs later agreed. Contrary to myth, Queen Isabella did not have to pawn any of the crown jewels to finance the trip.

Columbus set sail on August 3, 1492, from Palos, Spain, aboard three ships, Niña, Pinta, and Santa María, the last being his flagship. Columbus (christened Cristoforo Colombo) had been promised a 10 percent share of profits, governorship of newfound lands, and an impressive title -- Admiral of the Ocean Sea. On October 12 at 2 A.M., just as his crews were threatening to mutiny and force a return to Spain, a lookout named Rodrigo de Triana aboard the Pinta sighted moonlight shimmering on some cliffs or sand. Having promised a large reward to the first man to spot land, Columbus claimed that he had seen the light the night before, and kept the reward for himself. Columbus named the landfall -- Guanahani to the natives -- San Salvador. While it was long held that Columbus's San Salvador was Watling Island in the Bahamas, recent computer-assisted theories point to Samana Cay. Later on that first voyage, Columbus reached Cuba and a large island he called Hispaniola (presently Haiti and the Dominican Republic).

Although he found some naked natives whom he christened indios in the mistaken belief that he had reached the so-called Indies or Indonesian Islands, the only gold he found was in the earrings worn by the Indians. As for spices, he did find a local plant called tobacos, which was rolled into cigars and smoked by the local Arawak. It was not long before all Europe was savoring pipefuls of the evil weed. Tobacco was brought to Spain for the first time in 1555. Three years later, the Portuguese introduced Europe to the habit of taking snuff. The economic importance of tobacco to the early history of America cannot be ignored. While we like to think about the importance of documents and decisions, tobacco became the cash crop that kept the English colonies going -- where it literally kept the settlers alive. In other words, there is nothing new about powerful tobacco lobbies. They have influenced government practically since the first European settlers arrived.

Still believing that he had reached some island outposts of China, Columbus left some volunteers on Hispaniola in a fort called Natividad, built of timbers from the wrecked Santa María, and returned to Spain. While Columbus never reached the mainland of the present United States of America on any of his three subsequent voyages, his arrival in the Caribbean signaled the dawn of an astonishing and unequaled era of discovery, conquest, and colonization in the Americas. Although his bravery, persistence, and seamanship have rightfully earned Columbus a place in history, what the schoolbooks gloss over is that Columbus's arrival also marked the beginning of one of the cruelest episodes in human history.

Driven by an obsessive quest for gold, Columbus quickly enslaved the local population. Under Columbus and other Spanish adventurers, as well as later European colonizers, an era of genocide was opened that ravaged the native American population through warfare, forced labor, draconian punishments, and European diseases to which the Indians had no natural immunities.

American Voices

Christopher Columbus, October 12, 1492, on encountering the Arawak, from his diary (as quoted by Bartolomé de las Casas):

They must be good servants and very intelligent, because I see that they repeat very quickly what I told them, and it is my conviction that they would easily become Christians, for they seem not to have any sect. If it please our Lord, I will take six of them that they may learn to speak. The people are totally unacquainted with arms, as your Highnesses will see by observing the seven which I have caused to be taken in. With fifty men all can be kept in subjection, and made to do whatever you desire.

If he wasn't interested in the Bahamas, what was Columbus looking for in the first place?

The arrival of the three ships at their Caribbean landfall marks what is probably the biggest and luckiest blooper in the history of the world. Rather than a new world, Columbus was actually searching for a direct sea route to China and the Indies. Ever since Marco Polo had journeyed back from the Orient loaded with spices, gold, and fantastic tales of the strange and mysterious East, Europeans had lusted after the riches of Polo's Cathay (China). This appetite grew ravenous when the returning Crusaders opened up overland trade routes between Europe and the Orient. However, when Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453, it meant an end to the spice route that served as the economic lifeline for Mediterranean Europe. Emerging from the Middle Ages, Europe was quickly shifting from an agrarian, barter economy to a new age of capitalism in which gold was the coin of the realm. The medieval Yeppies (Young European Princes) acquired a taste for the finer things such as gold and precious jewels, as well as the new taste sensations called spices, and these were literally worth their weight in gold. After a few centuries of home cooked venison, there was an enormous clamor for the new Oriental takeout spices: cinnamon from Ceylon, pepper from India and Indonesia, nutmeg from Celebes, and cloves from the Moluccas. The new merchant princes had also acquired a taste for Japanese silks and Indian cottons, dyes, and precious stones.

Led by Prince Henry the Navigator, founder of a great scholarly seaport on the coast of Portugal, Portuguese sea captains like Bartholomeu Dias (who reached the Cape of Good Hope in 1488) and Vasco da Gama (who sailed all the way to India in 1495) had taken the lead in exploiting Africa and navigating a sea route to the Indies. Like others of his day, Columbus believed that a direct westward passage to the Orient was not only possible, but would be faster and easier. In spite of what Columbus's public relations people later said, the flat earth idea was pretty much finished by the time Chris sailed. In fact, an accepted theory of a round earth had been held as far back as the days of the ancient Greeks. In the year Columbus sailed, a Nuremberg geographer constructed the first globe. The physical proof of the Earth's roundness came when eighteen survivors of Magellan's crew of 266 completed a circumnavigation in 1522.

Columbus believed a course due west along latitude twenty-eight degrees north would take him to Marco Polo's fabled Cipangu (Japan). Knowing that no one was crazy enough to sponsor a voyage of more than 3,000 miles, Columbus based his guess of the distance on ancient Greek theories, some highly speculative maps drawn after Marco Polo's return, and some figure fudging of his own. He arrived at the convenient estimate of 2,400 miles.

In fact, the distance Columbus was planning to cover was 10,600 miles by air!

Did Columbus's men bring syphilis back to Europe?

One of the most persistent legends surrounding Columbus probably didn't get into your high school history book. It is an idea that got its start in Europe when the return of Columbus and his men coincided with a massive outbreak of syphilis in Europe. Syphilis in epidemic proportions first appeared during a war being fought in Naples in 1494. The army of the French king, Charles VIII, withdrew from Naples, and the disease was soon spreading throughout Europe. Later, Portuguese sailors during the Age of Discovery carried the malady to Africa, India, and Asia, where it apparently had not been seen before. By around 1539, according to William H. McNeill, "Contemporaries thought it was a new disease against which Eurasian populations had no established immunities. The timing of the first outbreak of syphilis in Europe and the place where it occurred certainly seems to fit what one would expect of the disease had it been imported from America by Columbus's returning sailors. This theory ... became almost universally accepted ... until very recently."

Over the centuries, this "urban legend" acquired a sort of mystique as an unintended form of "revenge" unwittingly exacted by the Indians for what Columbus and the arrival of Europeans had done to them. One of the earliest documented signs of syphilis in humans dates to about 2,000 years ago, in remains found in North America.

In fact, other culprits have been blamed for the scourge of syphilis. The word itself was coined in 1530 by Girolamo Fracastoro, an Italian physician and poet. He published a poem called "Syphilis, sive Morbus Gallicus," which translates as "Syphilis, or the French Disease." In the poem, a shepherd named Syphilus is supposed to have been the first victim of the disease, which in the fifteenth century was far more deadly and virulent than the form of syphilis commonly known today. Of course, this was also a long time before the advent of antibiotics. The original source of the name Syphilus is uncertain but may have come from the poetry of Ovid. In other words, the Italians blamed the French for syphilis. And in Spain, the disease was blamed on the Jews, who had been forced out of Spain, also in that memorable year of 1492.

According to McNeill, many modern researchers reject the so-called Columbian Exchange version of syphilis. There is simply too much evidence of pre-Columbian syphilis in the Old World. For example, pre-Columbian skeletons recently unearthed in England show distinctive signs of syphilis. So while a definitive answer to the origin of the scourge of Venus remains a mystery, the American Indian as the original source of Europe's plague of syphilis seems far less likely than it once did.

So if Columbus didn't really discover America, who did?

Like the argument about syphilis, the debate over who reached the Americas before Columbus goes back almost as far as Columbus's voyage. Enough books have been written on the subject of earlier "discoverers" to fill a small library. There is plenty of evidence to bolster the claims made on behalf of a number of voyagers who may have reached the Americas, either by accident or design, well before Columbus reached the Bahamas.

Among these, the one best supported by archaeological evidence is the credit given to Norse sailors, led by Norse captain Leif Eriksson, who not only reached North America but established a colony in present-day Newfoundland around a.d. 1000, five hundred years before Columbus. The site of a Norse village has been uncovered at L'Anse Aux Meadows, near present day St. Anthony, and was named the first World Heritage site by UNESCO, an educational and cultural arm of the United Nations. While archaeology has answered some questions, many others remain about the sojourn of the Norse in the Americas.

Most of what is guessed about the Norse colony in North America is derived from two Icelandic epics called The Vinland Sagas. There are three locations -- Stoneland, probably the barren coast of Labrador, Woodland, possibly Maine; and Vinland -- which the Norse visited. While Leif the Lucky gets the credit in history and the roads and festivals named after him, it was another Norseman, Bjarni Herjolfsson, who was the first European to sight North America, in 985 or 986. But it was Leif who supposedly built some huts and spent one winter in this land where wild grapes -- more likely berries since there are no grapes in any of these places -- grew before returning to Greenland. A few years later, another Greenlander named Thorfinn Karlsefni set up housekeeping in Eriksson's spot, passing two years there. Among the problems they faced were unfriendly local tribes, whom the Norsemen called skrelings (a contemptuous term translated as "wretch" or "dwarf"). During one attack, a pregnant Norse woman frightened the skrelings off by slapping a sword against her bare breast. Terrified at this sight, the skrelings fled back to their boats.

In his fascinating book Cod, Mark Kurlansky asks, "What did these Norsemen eat on the five expeditions to America between 986 and 1011 that have been recorded in the Icelandic sagas? They were able to travel to all these distant, barren shores because they had learned to preserve codfish by hanging it in the frosty winter air until it lost four-fifths of its weight and became a durable woodlike plank. They could break off pieces and chew them ... "

There are those who hold out for earlier discoverers. For many years, there were tales of earlier Irish voyagers, led by a mythical St. Brendan, who supposedly reached America in the ninth or tenth century, sailing in small boats called curraghs. However, no archaeological or other evidence supports this. Another popular myth, completely unfounded, regards a Welshman named Modoc who established a colony and taught the local Indians to speak Welsh. A more recent theory provides an interesting twist on the "Europeans sailing to Asia" notion. A British navigation expert has studied ancient Chinese maps and believes that a Chinese admiral may have circumnavigated the globe and reached America 100 years before Columbus. Convincing proof of such a voyage would be a stunning revision of history, but to date it is the equivalent of the philosopher's tree falling in the forest: If the Chinese got there first but nobody "heard" it, did they really get there first?

A significant discovery belongs to another of Columbus's countrymen, Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot), who was sailing for the British. In 1496, Cabot (and his son, Sebastian) received a commission from England's King Henry VII to find a new trade route to Asia. Sailing out of Bristol aboard the Matthew, Cabot reached a vast rocky coastline near a sea teeming with cod. Cabot reported the vast wealth of this place he called New Found Land, which he claimed for Henry VII, staking a claim that would eventually provide the English with their foothold in the New World. Sailing with five ships on a second voyage in 1498, Cabot ran into bad weather. One of the vessels returned to an Irish port, but Cabot disappeared with the four other ships.

But Cabot and others were not sailing into completely unknown waters. Fishermen in search of cod had been frequenting the waters off North America for many years. Basque fishing boats frequented the waters. Clearly, though, they had decided it was a nice fishing spot but not a place to stay for good. And they were slow to catch on that the coastal land they were fishing near was not Asia. Even in the sixteenth century, according to Mark Kurlansky in Cod, Newfoundland was charted as an island off China.

So even though cod fishermen were the Europeans who discovered "America," they -- like generations of anglers who keep their best spots to themselves -- wanted to keep their fishing grounds secret, and the distinction of being the first European to set foot on what would become United States soil usually goes to Juan Ponce de León, the Spanish adventurer who conquered Puerto Rico. Investigating rumors of a large island north of Cuba that contained a "fountain of youth" whose waters could restore youth and vigor, Ponce de León found and named Florida in 1513 and "discovered" Mexico on that same trip.

Finally, there is the 1524 voyage of still another Italian, Giovanni de Verrazano, who sailed in the employ of the French Crown with the financial backing of silk merchants eager for Asian trade. Verrazano was searching for a strait through the New World that would take him westward to the Orient. He reached land at Cape Fear in present day North Carolina, and sailed up the Atlantic coast until he reached Newfoundland and then returned to France. Along the way, he failed to stop in either Chesapeake or Delaware Bay. But Verrazano reached New York Bay (where he went only as far as the narrows and the site of the bridge that both bear his name) and Narragansett Bay, as well as an arm-shaped hook of land he named Pallavisino in honor of an Italian general. Still frustrated in the search for a passage to the east, Verrazano returned to France but insisted that the "7000 leagues of coastline" he had found constituted a New World. Seventy years later, Englishman Bartholomew Gosnold was still looking for a route to Asia, which he did not find, of course. However, he did find a great many cod, in shallow waters, and renamed Verrazano's Pallavisino Cape Cod in 1602. But the English sailors who attempted to settle the area -- near what is Bristol, Maine -- found this new world "over-cold."

But all these European cod fishermen and lost sailors seeking Asia were no more than Johnny-come-latelies in the Americas. In fact, America had been "discovered" long before any of these voyages. The true "discoverers" of America were the people whose culture and societies were well established here while Europe was still in the Dark Ages, the so-called Indians, who, rather ironically, had walked to the New World from Asia.

Must Read: Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World by Mark Kurlansky.
Don't Know Much About History
Everything You Need to Know About American History but Never Learned
. Copyright © by Kenneth Davis. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 71 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2006

    Once a liberal always a liberal

    The books first starts of by the author stating he will be as partial to both the democratic and republican parties. However thru out the book he favors the democrates and takes stabs at the current administration. Overall a good historical book with many facts but is very one-sided on issues of abortion, rebublicans and GOD. After reading this book i belive the author is an atheist. Overall, good history book for the uninformed american...

    10 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2006

    Great structure

    My favorite thing about the book was how it broke everything down unlike many high school textbooks used to do for me. This guy loses a star though because even he said himself that people thinks his work sometimes leans to the left. I found a lot of parts where he blatantly took a specific side, and it was obvious. You would think he would leave those out if he wanted more credibility.

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Not a very balanced look at events

    This book contains some if not factual mistakes at the very least he draws conclusions of a very "liberal" sort, and I don't mean liberal in the classical sense but in the Jimmy Carter sense. Thats the thing about history I think is particularly when coverning such a broad time frame your political lean can be shown by what you leave out as well as what you put into the book. That said the style and the information was great, and may inspire people to look further into some of the events of history all in all I think thats a good thing.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2004

    For those who 'don't know much' this is a perfect introduction

    Many years ago, my AP U.S. history teacher recommended I read this book as I prepare for the AP exam. It keeps information basic, but interesting. It provides facts my students need to understand while making people and events easy to understand. It is not a detailed account of American history, but an excellent, easy, and fun-to-read introduction for those wanting to learn more. And for those who are no longer students, it keeps the reader interested and is great for short reading periods as it is divided into many sections.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 17, 2011

    A must have for every US history student

    An engaging read . I always kept 5 to 10 copies in my classroom as additional resource for my students. I

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2009

    Amazingly boring!

    We bought this for a road trip and came home too late to return it. We could not stand to listen to it even though we love non-fiction, and history. The whole first cd was an endless and boring and repetitive intro. The author is fond of himself, but we did not share that enthusiasm.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2009

    dont know much about history

    this is an incredible audio book for a truck driver, traveling sales person or anyone who spends a lot of time on the road. So amazing what I did not know about American history.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 13, 2009

    Mixed Review

    While the book does offer some interesting and unusual facts, its over- all presentation is rather dry. It is well constucted and the flow of history - how events built on each other and led to big events - is interesting. I enjoyed parts, but not enough to recommend it to anyone else.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2014

    Biased

    Unfortunately very one sided. I prefer authors who explore issues from all angles.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2010

    A good revisionist history

    A good read and very informative, however, in the attempt to be ballanced the book leans too far to the negative. Sure, it's true that America was a racest, sexist, bunch of Pruitans commiting genocide, but how did that compair with other nations at the time? The answer (that isn't in the book) is that the United States was, for all its' faults, still a "shining city on the hill".

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 22, 2009

    Absolutely captivating!

    Now expanded to 16 CDs, I find myself looking for excuses to take a road trip. The format provides just the right amount of information to enlighten but not overwhelm. Incredibly entertaining, informative and highly recommended.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 17, 2009

    Great reference book - also a lot of fun

    As a history buff I found this book a lot of fun to read. The writing is first rate and the information inside was such that I learned a few things for the first time. I would consider this a first rate reference book. I would also love to see him come out with an updated version. That would certainly be on my list of books to read!!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2006

    Okay

    Though the book had many facts, it never came out and said the answers to many of the questions outlined in the beginning of each chapter. I found it to be fairly dull and felt that even the truth could have been livened up a bit.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2005

    What a Textbook Should Be

    This is the book that they should be using for high school history class. The author covers the entire history of our nation and does it in a way that makes it entertaining to read. He also gives you the straight dope about what famous figures were really like and what really happened. If you've got a teenager,get them this book. I would also highly recommend this book for history buffs,or just anybody who would like to know the real deal about the history of the US.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2000

    The Official Hisory Handbook

    This book is great! I just finished my first semester of college and this book has been a livesaver. I 'borrowed' this book from my grandmother when I was in the 8th grade, but she still hasn't gotten it back. I've used this book all throughout high school, and now that I'm in college, it has helped a lot. If there was something I didn't understand or I needed more details, I just opened the book and it broke everything down to where it's easy to understand and grasp, unlike the boring history text book. This book is easy and fun to read. I would recommend this book to anyone.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2014

    Pop star

    Lol math #gril. Pop out

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2014

    Everything you always needed to know about US history but were too bored to learn!

    Ken has written a most readable and straightforward US history, in chronological order, quite apart from the 'traditional' history. He explores events and activities that led to things with which we are familiar, putting them into a cohesive scenario that flows as smooth as a river. Reminds me of the old "Connections" PBS tv series. A worthwhile read. Hope he does another update soon, to encompass our current situation!

    - TwinCam

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2014

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    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2009

    Great reference

    This is a wonderful book to have on hand. I find myself picking it up quite a bit when the kids have history questions and I'm not quite sure of the answers. Lots of information I never learned in school.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Entertaining

    It is amazing how much history a person forgets as they get older. This book will help fill in the blanks.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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