Who Built America?, Volume One

American Social History Project, Author
American Social History Project, Author Pantheon Books $34.95 (2p) ISBN 978-0-394-54663-6
Reviewed on: 03/01/1990
Release date: 03/01/1990
Workers, women and minorities are the focus of a volume more successful as a textbook than as a history for the general reader. At its best, this offers enlightening glimpses of the impact of white settlers on American Indians, early stirrings of the labor movement, the hardships imposed by slavery, and ``the capacity of ordinary people to alter the very process of history.'' However, the book is marred by sweeping assertions (``More and more people were now making their living in ways that challenged the values of the revolutionary generation''), a careless blunder (that Andrew Johnson was not impeached) and a relentless contempt for wealth: virtue is here the province of those with modest means. Also, this America is inhabited not so much by individuals as by economic groups: the British ``invaders'' (meaning the colonists, not Redcoat soldiers), Northern merchant elite, mill women, landlords and, of course, the ``poor, cringing tenant.'' The text is liberally embellished with contemporaneous drawings, cartoons, photographs and prose excerpts. (Mar.)
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