The Twentieth Century: A People's History

The Twentieth Century: A People's History

by Howard Zinn


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The Twentieth Century: A People's History by Howard Zinn

Based on the revised 1995 edition of Howard Zinn's landmark alternative history of America, A People's History of the United States, this revised and updated edition of The Twentieth Century (more than 40,000 copies sold) includes a new chapter on Clinton's first term and a new preface.

Containing just the Twentieth-century chapters from Howard Zinn's bestselling A People's History of the United States, this reissue is brought up-to-date with coverage of events and developments since the mid-1980s, analyzing such incidents in modern political history as the Gulf War, the post-Cold War "peace divided," and the continuing debate over welfare. Highlighting not just the usual terms of presidential administrations and congressional activities, this book provides readers with a "bottom-to-top" perspective, giving voice to our nation's minorities and letting the stories of such groups as African American, women, Native Americans, and the laborers of all nationalities be told in their own words.

Challenging traditional interpretations of U.S. history, The Twentieth Century is the book for readers interested in gaining a more realistic and complete picture of our world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060951986
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/28/1998
Edition description: REV
Pages: 468
Product dimensions: 5.32(w) x 8.01(h) x 1.16(d)

About the Author

Howard Zinn (1922–2010) was a historian, playwright, and social activist. In addition to A People’s History of the United States, which has sold more than two million copies, he is the author of numerous books including The People Speak, Passionate Declarations, and the autobiography, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Empire and the People

Theodore Roosevelt wrote to a friend in the year 1897: "In strict confidence . . . I should welcome almost any war, for I think this country needs one."

The year of the massacre at Wounded Knee, 1890, it was officially declared by the Bureau of the Census that the internal frontier was closed. The profit system, with its natural tendency for expansion, had already begun to look overseas. The severe depression, that began in 1893 strengthened an idea developing ',;within the political and financial elite of the country: that overseas markets for American goods might relieve the problem of `' underconsumption at home and prevent the economic crises that in the 1890s brought class war.

And would not a foreign adventure deflect some of the rebellious energy that went into strikes and protest movements toward an external enemy? Would it not unite people with government, with the armed forces, instead of against them? This was probably not a conscious plan among most of the elite-but a natural development from the twin drives of capitalism and nationalism.

Expansion overseas was not a new idea. Even before the war against Mexico carried the United States to the Pacific, the Monroe Doctrine looked southward into and beyond the Caribbean. Issued in 1823 when the countries of Latin America were winning independence from Spanish control, it made plain to European nations that the United States considered Latin America its sphere of influence. Not long after, some Americans began thinking into the Pacific: of Hawaii, Japan, and the great markets ofChina.

There was more than thinking; the American armed forces had made forays overseas. A State Department list, "Instances of the Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad 1798-1945" (presented by Secretary of State Dean Rusk to a Senate committee in 1962 to cite precedents for the use of armed force against Cuba), shows 103 interventions in the affairs of other countries between 1798 and 1895. A sampling from the list, with the exact description given by the State Department:

1852-53--Argentina. Marines were landed and maintained in Buenos Aires to protect American interests during a revolution.
1853--Nicaragua--to protect American lives and interests during political disturbances.
1853-54--Japan--The "Opening of Japan" and the Perry Expedition. [The State Department does not give more details, but this involved the use of warships to force Japan to open its ports to the United States.]
1853-54--Ryukyu and Bonin Islands--Commodore Perry on three visits before going to Japan and while waiting for a reply from Japan made a naval demonstration; landing marines twice, and secured a coaling concession from the ruler of Naha on Okinawa. He also demonstrated in the Bonin Islands. All to secure facilities for commerce.
1854--Nicaragua--San Juan del Norte [Greytown was destroyed to avenge an insult to the American Minister to Nicaragua.]
1855--Uruguay--U.S. and European naval forces landed to protect American interests during an attempted revolution in Montevideo. 1859-China-For the protection of American interests in Shanghai.
1860--Angola, Portuguese West Africa--To protest  American lives and property at Kissembo when the natives became troublesome.
1893--Hawaii--Ostensible to protect American lives and property; actually to promote a provisional government under Sanford B: Dole. This action was disavowed by the United States.
1894--Nicaragua--To protect American interests at Bluefields following a revolution.

Thus, by the 1890s, there had been much experience in overseas probes and interventions. The ideology of expansion was widespread in the upper circles of military men, politicians, businessmen-and even among some of the leaders of farmers' movements who thought foreign markets would help them.

Captain A. T. Mahan of the U.S. navy, a popular propagandist for expansion, greatly influenced Theodore Roosevelt and other American leaders. The countries with the biggest navies would inherit the earth, he said. "Americans must now begin to look outward." Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts wrote in a magazine article:

In the interests of our commerce . . . we should build the Nicaragua canal, and for the protection of that canal and for the sake of our commercial supremacy in the Pacific we should control the Hawai ian islands and maintain our influence in Samoa . . . . and when the Nicaraguan canal is built, the island of Cuba . . . will become a necessity . . . . The great nations are rapidly absorbing for their future expansion and their present defense all the waste places of the earth. It is a movement which makes for civilization and the advancement of the race. As one of the great nations of the world the United States must not fall out of the line of march.

A Washington Post editorial on the eve of the Spanish-American war:

A new consciousness seems to have come upon us-the consciouspess of strength-and with it a new appetite, the yearning to show our strength....Ambition, interest, land hunger, pride, the mere joy of fighting, whatever it may be, we are animated by a new sensation.

The Twentieth Century. Copyright © by Howard Zinn. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Twentieth Century: A People's History 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author James Baldwin once said, 'No one can possibly know what is about to happen. It is happening each time, for the first time, for the only time.' However, I strongly disagree with his statement, for history repeats itself and works in cycles. Howard Zinn explains the Twentieth Century in his book, The Twentieth Century: A People's History. His views are very left wing and Marxist. While reading this book, his tone and style seemed oddly familiar. It seemed generally similar to feelings of discontent, present in the Nineteenth Century. Zinn's sentiments that government's role in America are very parallel to those put forth by the New England Transcendentalists. Then, I came across the quote by Henry David Thoreau, from his book Civil Disobedience: 'The government which governs best, is that which governs not at all.' When I started reading this book, I had no background on Zinn. I wasn't ready for his self-proclaimed 'biased accounts' of history. I had expected a more traditional textbook approach, where no opinion is offered. I found it very refreshing, at first, to read his style of writing. I enjoyed much of his book, especially his citation of other historians, his references to literature of the time or that was set in the time, and I also liked a few of the points that he made that were hidden or neglected to mention by other sources. For example: The CIA had attempted to kill Martin Luther King Jr. on several occasions. This may have been or may be public knowledge, but it seems to have been overlooked in the wake of his death. However, towards the end of the book, I found his negativity overwhelming. Perhaps unjustly, but it seemed like he omitted or downplayed the importance of many figures who seem to be noteworthy in America. I thought that the mention of Franklin Roosevelt was somewhat lacking. After coming into office in the Depression, Roosevelt began many innovative programs, such as the WPA and the CCC, to put Americans back to work and to try to relieve some of the hardships of the Depression. Zinn seemed to minimized Roosevelt's importance and his accomplishments. I really liked the way that Zinn included another historian's thoughts on a particular topic. On page 54, he devotes almost a page to the noted historian Richard Hofstadter, whose views are often similar to mine, which made the book that much more enjoyable. Another thing I enjoyed was the fairly frequent citing of literary works written during that time or in later years, but set in the period of discussion. On page 85, Zinn states, 'F. Scott Fitzgerald, in an article, Echoes of the Jazz Age,' said: It was a borrowed time anyway the whole upper tenth of the nation living with the insouciance of a grand duc and the casualness of chorus girls.'' Having read Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, this statement really had an effect on me. I could understand exactly what the quote was intended to mean. Zinn also quotes John Steinbeck's book, The Grapes of Wrath (pp.90-91). 'And the dispossessed, the migrants, flowed into California, two hundred and fifty thousand, and three hundred thousand...And in the south he saw the golden oranges hanging on the trees, the little golden oranges on the dark green trees; and guards with shotguns patrolling the lines so a man might not pick an orange for a thin child, oranges to be dumped if the price was low...' Being familiar with Steinbeck, I had another personal insight, as I did with Fitzgerald. The last line was especially introspective. It made me stop and think about what was really going on during the Depression and how bad the poverty was in America at that time. Zinn often reminds us of countless things that America has done that he views as wrong. Among the many, many countries and people that America has wronged, he pointed out a few examples that really
Guest More than 1 year ago
History always put me to sleep in school. After law school though I decided to force myself to read a U.S. history book and I just have to say thank goodness for Howard Zinn. This book was an eye opening experience. Be warned though it leaves you with a kind of frustration when you think about all those who haven't learned the truth about the U.S. gov't and oppressing people yet eg. when you see all the Columbus statues everywhere. I would have thought this a kinda Conspiracy theory text if not written by a college professor and PhD from Columbia. Who knew? My only regret is that the book didn't mention the oppression of other races through racist immigration laws which only allowed in free whites and peoples of african descent while barring Japanese from entering the U.S. through a 1924 act, barring chinese through the 1874 chinese exclusion act which kept chinese out till 1943, and the 1917 creation of a 'barred zone' banning people from India from entering the U.S. till 1946. These laws explain why many of these races are not yet well represented in government and media. Zinn's book also praises Samuel Gompers who had made racist comments about Hindus before they were barred from the U.S. Good books on these other races are Asian Americans and Congress by a professor Kim I forget the first name, and Asians in America by H.Brett Melendy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ever wonder why there's still an embargo against Cuba? Or what happened to the IWW? Did *everybody* really support going to war against the Germans twice? Why was the US involved in Vietnam? Professor Zinn tells the story of the United States from the vantage point of ordinary working people. Instead of repeating grammar school propaganda about how wonderful our leaders are, he relates the effects of business-inspired government policies on the 99% of us that are on the bottom. If you really think we have a democratic federal government 'of the people' and 'for the people' when you start this book, you might just change your mind by the end. Although the narrative wanders a bit, it's very hard to put down before the last chapter. I highly recommend this book to everyone who wants to know the truth of our history.
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