HISTORY AS MYSTERY by Michael Parenti


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paper 0-87286-357-3 A somewhat scattered but well-considered manifesto for a history that serves as a weapon —in the age-old war for our intellectual emancipation.— A quarter of college seniors cannot come within 50 years of pinpointing Columbus’s arrival in America; 40 percent cannot give the dates of the Civil War; most cannot distinguish WWI from WWII, except to guess that one preceded the other. Small wonder, says left-wing historian Parenti (Dirty Truths, 1996, etc.), for most written history is —an ideologically safe commodity— that serves the interests of the ruling class—and that in any event is generally pretty uninteresting fare. At points in this collection of essays, Parenti examines the nature of American history textbooks, which, he believes, ignore or undervalue the contributions of ethnic minorities, women, and labor; considers the influence of Christianity on European culture, a tradition, he argues, that is replete with misogyny, anti-Semitism, and book-burning; and generally offers assessments of the nation’s past that would give Lynne Cheney and William Bennett fits. Opponents of left-wing points of view will immediately dismiss Parenti’s arguments as more liberal breast-beating; proponents of those points of view will likely admire this book, which suffers only from a tendency to repeat attention-getting slogans on matters of racism, sexism, and classism. Historically minded readers on the left and right alike will find Parenti’s account of the 1991 exhumation of President Zachary Taylor—who, some scholars have suspected, was assassinated by poisoning—to be of much interest. Parenti takes issue with the conclusions of that long-after-the-fact inquest, writing that —the chief medical examiner’s investigation pretended to a precision and thoroughness it never attained,— while the media —eagerly cloaked the inquest with an undeserved conclusiveness.— Solid if surely controversial stuff.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1999
ISBN: 0-87286-364-6
Page count: 222pp
Publisher: City Lights
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1999


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