Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past

( 1 )

Overview

First published ten years ago, award-winning historian Ray Raphael’s Founding Myths has since established itself as a landmark of historical myth-busting. With Raphael’s trademark wit and flair, Founding Myths exposed the errors and inventions in America’s most cherished tales, from Paul Revere’s famous ride to Patrick Henry’s “Liberty or Death” speech. For the thousands who have been captivated by Raphael’s eye-opening accounts, history has never been the same.

In this revised ...

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Overview

First published ten years ago, award-winning historian Ray Raphael’s Founding Myths has since established itself as a landmark of historical myth-busting. With Raphael’s trademark wit and flair, Founding Myths exposed the errors and inventions in America’s most cherished tales, from Paul Revere’s famous ride to Patrick Henry’s “Liberty or Death” speech. For the thousands who have been captivated by Raphael’s eye-opening accounts, history has never been the same.

In this revised tenth-anniversary edition, Raphael revisits the original myths and further explores their evolution over time, uncovering new stories and peeling back new layers of misinformation. This new edition also examines the highly politicized debates over America’s past, as well as how our approach to history in school reinforces rather than corrects historical mistakes.

A book that “explores the truth behind the stories of the making of our nation” (National Public Radio), this revised edition of Founding Myths will be a welcome resource for anyone seeking to separate historical fact from fiction.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Author of A People's History of the American Revolution, Raphael once again turns to that period, aiming to punctuate popular perceptions deriving from the 19th century's penchant for solitary romantic agents. He focuses on 13 stories revolving around either mythical or genuine figures and events, including Paul Revere's ride, Molly Pitcher's battlefield heroics, Sam Adams as the supposed architect of independence, the shot heard 'round the world, the Valley Forge winter, the lauded generation of the Founding Fathers, and the presumed denouement at Yorktown of a global conflict that continued elsewhere. Curiously, the fabricated tale of flag-maker Betsy Ross is not included as a separate entry. Raphael buttresses his points by introducing each chapter with iconic illustrations by Jonathan Trumbull, John Singleton Copley, Howard Pyle, and others. Amply annotated, this anthology underscores the idea that knowing the truth about numerous anonymous players rather than holding to elaborate story lines is more empowering for a starkly realistic age. Especially recommended for all public library and undergraduate collections.-Frederick J. Augustyn Jr., Library of Congress Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

Praise for the tenth-anniversary edition of Founding Myths:
"A persuasive argument in favor of evidence-based history, even if it means surrendering some of our cherished fabrications."
Kirkus Reviews

Praise for the original edition:
"Ray Raphael's engaging and eye-opening book doesn’t merely debunk historical fallacies. Using the best modern historical writing and his own research, the author also explains why and to what purpose these myths were created and then offers well-argued alternative explanations."
Sacramento Bee

"Raphael relays so much forgotten or never-known history and argues so well why it, not the legends, should be remembered that virtually any Americans will profit from reading this lively, intelligent book."
Booklist

"All students of American history will find Raphael's correction of the historical record instructive and enjoyable."
Publishers Weekly

Kirkus Reviews
2014-05-17
A distinguished historian revisits the American legends he effectively debunked 10 years ago and discovers that they die hard.Over two centuries after the nation's founding, does the narrative change when we understand that Paul Revere didn't really ride alone, that Sam Adams wasn't a "one-man revolution," that the Declaration didn't spring full-blown from the mind of Thomas Jefferson, that Patrick Henry likely never said, "give me liberty or give me death," or that Molly Pitcher never existed at all? Raphael (Senior Research Fellow/Humboldt State Univ.; Constitutional Myths: What We Get Wrong and How to Get It Right, 2013, etc.) takes on a number of myths and legends that have crept unquestioned into our textbooks and popular histories, and he explains their persistence and the damage done if they remain uncorrected. He also highlights some stories we have failed to tell. How is our understanding changed if we discover that the tale of the cruel winter and patient suffering at Valley Forge has an unacknowledged twin, two years later, at the Morristown encampment, where the weather was colder and the soldiers mutinied? What if we learn that the American struggle for independence, itself only a small part of a worldwide conflict, was also a war of conquest in the West and featured a brutal civil war in the South? By slapping tidy beginnings and endings on stories, we distort a deeper, more complex history. By fashioning them into stick figures, we turn the Founders into an assembly of demigods. Worst of all, Raphael argues, we understate the central theme of the American Revolution—popular sovereignty—and marginalize the contributions made by millions of common citizens. Overlooking this genuine heritage, he insists, takes the Revolution out of the hands of the people, without whom the entire enterprise would surely have failed.A persuasive argument in favor of evidence-based history, even if it means surrendering some of our cherished fabrications.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595580733
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 7/28/2006
  • Pages: 354
  • Sales rank: 944,099
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author


Ray Raphael has taught at a one-room public high school, Humboldt State University, and College of the Redwoods. His seventeen books include A People’s History of the American Revolution, The First American Revolution, Founders, and Constitutional Myths (all available from The New Press). Currently a senior research fellow at Humboldt State University, he lives in northern California, where he hikes and kayaks.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2007

    Not as impressed as others

    I found this book to be a little opinionated, exactly what the author criticizes in previous American History authors. For instance, in the story of Valley Forge the author insists that the 'Hard Winter' of Morristown was much worse for the patriots than in Valley Forge and goes on to precisely cite the Temperatures for that year. However, he very obviously ignores the difference in living conditions in both places, which factors strongly into the cause of so much suffering/death at Valley Forge. What was their housing like? The author thinks that simply because there was less mutiny, Valley Forge paints a better picture for the American eyes. I would question whether or not the author has even visited both places in order to compare simple differences in topography or distances to water and nearby towns as a form of resource, none of which is touched on in his book. He also argues against Lexington and Concord being 'the shot heard 'round the world,' and the actual start of the Revolution, saying it really began when Bostonians overthrew the British Government in 1774. Should we then say the Civil War began when the South Seceded? No, that's absurd. Dates are affixed to Wars based on when the two opposing sides first collide. Any scholar can recognize the seeds of discontent began long before the actual start of the Revolution-I might even put it as far back as the French and Indian War. However, the actual 'War' did begin at Lexington and Concord, and Mr. Raphael shouldn't try to impose his skewed views on others. He could have written the same book, with as much little-known information in it, without trying to change our history. It's not important that Molly Pitcher was not a real woman. What is important and what most people take from her story, is that women were out on the firing lines alongside the men, helping wherever and whenever they could and deserve the recognition that 'Molly' got. There was a lot of useful information in this book, but people need to read it with a critical eye. Be warned.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2004

    Let the sunshine in

    Ray Raphael's 'Founding Myths' is a realistic vision of American history that should be read by every teacher of history in our schools. It should be read by citizens as well so that they understand the concerns that brought about the American Revolution and how those concerns are applicable in today's world. We live too much in a world of myth because myths simplify things, giving us only black and white rather than including the many shades of gray that are part of history. Raphael touches on the issue of American imperialism and makes the reader aware that what was a gain for some was a tragic loss for others. These are not lessons that are taught in our history classes. The cover blurb that refers to the book as 'iconoclastic' is slightly misleading since the book presents a representation of reality--warts and all. This is a book for all small 'd' democrats.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2009

    This is a MUST NOT buy

    This was by far the worst book I have ever read. The only reason I read it was because it was required from AP American History. Raphael constantly tries to tell us that our history is full of "myths" when he has no point at all. I have found tons of flaws in his thinking. Do NOT buy. It's a waste of money. Rahael is one dumb f***. Im sorry, but it has to be said.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    First rate history

    Like "Lies My Teacher Told Me" this history of the American Revolution serves to correct the self-serving, laudatory accounts of the Revolution which are the common currency of American politics. Nevertheless, you will learn that Sarah Palin was right that the stores of munitions that the colonists possessed were the target of the British actions at Lexington and Concord in 1774; but you will also learn that there were much more significant events of 1774 that proceeded Lexington and Concord. This book is very well researched and definitely be read by anyone who is really looking for the true history of our country. You will still emerge with a sense of the importance of the Revolution, but without the tendentious moral lessons that politicians love to draw from it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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