Last Updated 06 Jan 2022

A People`s History of the United States Critical Analysis

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Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” appears to be unique as it presents historical events from the perspectives of the poor, minorities and dispossessed.

The expeditions of Christopher Columbus to North America, as Zinn had presented, resulted in the appalling genocide and exploitation of Carribean’s indigenous peoples (only few Americans have learned such in school and most historians tend to overlook) (Zinn, Howard; 1980).

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Zinn viewed and presented Columbus as the oppressor. From the beginning of the expedition, Columbus had intended to extract wealth from the natives. He demonstrated Columbus’ malevolent motives as he quoted the latter’s words upon encountering with the Indians: “They brought us parrots and balls of cotton in exchange for the glass beads and hawk’s bells…

They would make fine servants…With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want” (Zinn, Howard; 1980). Indeed, this is evidence that from the beginning, Columbus had been eager to assess the exploitability of the native inhabitants.

Furthermore, Zinn also described the nobility and innocence of the natives and had proved that Indian culture treated its women well using the following quotation from a Spanish priest who was with Columbus: “Marriage laws are non-existent; men and women alike choose their mates…Indian men and women look upon total nakedness with as much casualness” (Zinn, Howard; 1980).

Personally, Zinn’s presentation of historical events with respect to Columbus’ religious motivations varied from other historians. In the case of other historians (like Marshall) for instance, they took Columbus’ desire to evangelize the natives with seriousness as if they are willing to take these statements at face value; while Zinn, dismisses them by saying “He was full of religious talk” (stated on page 3).

Work Cited

Zinn, Howard (1980); “A People’s History of the United States: Columbus, the Indians and Human Progress”; edited by Harper Collins (2003): Book

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