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The People's History Of America?

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Click here for the book

I was suggested this book from someone on another website and the views are one way or the other....either people think this man is a genious or they think he's a communist scum bag.

Is it worth a read?  I'm limited on funds but his approach interests me.

~Michael

Howard Zinn is about as worthless as you get as far as professional history. I don't know what you can gain by buying and reading the book, other than to locate the orignator of some of the very horrid ideas underlying the demonization of Columbus, America, the founding fathers, etc.

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Columbus himself did not do anything horrible, but the Spanish conquest of Central and South America was pretty brutal--mass slaughter, slavery, etc, etc. Whatever one may think of the existing native cultures (and in some ways they were more advanced than Europe at the time) the Spanish conquest was not an improvement. Columbus gets blamed somewhat for that because he led the way.

ARI's view: http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pag...tivism_columbus

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In the bloody math of pre-Enlightenment, the conquistadors certainly were an improvement over the man-sacrificing and utterly malevolent Aztecs, Incas, Toltecs, Mayas, and the rest.

Even 50 years ago people realized that Columbus led the way to the conquistador invasions, this is not a discovery of today's post-modernists and cultural relativists; the question should be asked why he was still respected 'back in the day'.

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In the bloody math of pre-Enlightenment, the conquistadors certainly were an improvement over the man-sacrificing and utterly malevolent Aztecs, Incas, Toltecs, Mayas, and the rest.

I don't understand how you can call it a certain improvement. As an aspiring historian, one thing that drives me crazy bout a lot of objectivist historians is the same trouble subjectivist and intrinscist historians have: lack of causality.

Both cultures were bad, because both suffered from the same self-sacrificing plague of mysticism. The conquitodors enslaved the aztecs and felt a duty to massacre them because of their dilusion of mystic significance. Yes, they were a more advanced society, and yes they had a greater respect for the key elements that make human advancement possible. But they did it with a bad philosophy. Evil must stand upon good to thrive. The evil of mysticim paired with the good of individual rights and advancement manifest itself in the early european settlers.

How can you condone coercion, even if it abolishes ignorance. The ends do not justify the means. Open trade would have been more rational.

PS: I know I said something bad about objectivist philosophers, don't get upset. I'm not in anyway condeming the pholosophy, only a few people's inability to be consistant. :lol:

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Hi Megan,

Have you studied, say, the culture of the Aztecs? Compared to them, the scalping done by North American Indians seems benevolent and enlightened.

OK, OK, you're right. But I just needed to get that off my chest. I think of only consistantly rational people as superior, everyone else dwells in varying degrees of absurdity.

By the way, it was the European settlers who started the scalping.

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In the bloody math of pre-Enlightenment, the conquistadors certainly were an improvement over the man-sacrificing and utterly malevolent Aztecs, Incas, Toltecs, Mayas, and the rest.

Mass murder, rape, and enslavement were an improvement on their exisiting lives? Sorry, but that's absurd.

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I don't understand how you can call it a certain improvement. As an aspiring historian, one thing that drives me crazy bout a lot of objectivist historians is the same trouble subjectivist and intrinscist historians have: lack of causality.

Both cultures were bad, because both suffered from the same self-sacrificing plague of mysticism. The conquitodors enslaved the aztecs and felt a duty to massacre them because of their dilusion of mystic significance. Yes, they were a more advanced society, and yes they had a greater respect for the key elements that make human advancement possible. But they did it with a bad philosophy. Evil must stand upon good to thrive. The evil of mysticim paired with the good of individual rights and advancement manifest itself in the early european settlers.

How can you condone coercion, even if it abolishes ignorance. The ends do not justify the means. Open trade would have been more rational.

PS: I know I said something bad about objectivist philosophers, don't get upset. I'm not in anyway condeming the pholosophy, only a few people's inability to be consistant. ;)

The Spaniards who conquered the Aztecs and Incas were soldiers left over from the campaigns to kick the muslims out of Spain. They acted as marauding armies, but they weren't just a band of nomadic barbarians, they succeeded for various reasons demonstrating their own cultural superiority (even though the soldiers were probably the worst exemplars of it) and demonstrating the inferiority of those they conquered. In both the downfalls of the Aztecs and Incas, the tributary tribes were open to helping the invaders get rid of their native overlords. The Spanish soldiers passed on diseases to the people in the Americas because European cultures had long been domesticating aminals, where many deadly diseases orginate. Animal husbandry is an important part of civilization and the fact that many Indians had no immunity to these diseases demonstrated their backwardness. Also the Spaniards brought another implement of European modernism, guns, but with so few Spaniards these were more psychological than military.

Again I must refer back to the fact that many tribes flocked around Pizarro (Incas) and Cortez (Aztecs) to get rid of the two great empires of the Americas. Now the aftermath was a complete disaster as should be expected from the spread of diseases the Indians couldn't combat and the fact that the soldiers were there for gold, silver, or land. However a true benefit from the overthrow of the Aztecs especially was the ending of human sacrifices to the sun, which were drawn as tributes from conquered tribes.

I think it is undeniable that the end result is preferable to how it was, but the means were messy, bloody, irrational, wrong, etc. But I defy anyone to show me a military conquest from the sixteenth century that fit any rational or Objectivist ideal, which is a contradiction in terms almost. We cannot judge historical actors in their own time because they didn't come up with all sorts of ideas, the precursors of which didn't exist. Aristotle had only been rediscovered by Europeans a few hundred year prior and the Renaissance was just beginning to reach its form. Had Ayn Rand been born at this time period I can guarantee she would not have been any life-altering philosopher for anyone, because too many things necessary for 1905 Russia to exist had not yet been developed or taken place.

In looking upon these events, we must judge them primarily by their ends. The means should also be discussed, and certainly if their were and Aztec Empire today we would deal with it differently than Cortez did, but this is an irrelevancy. What is important is how American (and subsequently Mexican) culture and civilazation was changed by the conquest, good and bad. And on the whole I think it was a net benefit.

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Aztec Empire today we would deal with it differently than Cortez did
Did we deal with Nazi Germany much differently?

But I defy anyone to show me a military conquest from the sixteenth century that fit any rational or Objectivist ideal, which is a contradiction in terms almost.

Actually, the actions of the Dutch and the Swedes during this period are worth inspecting, especially people such as Gustavus Adolphus. England especially was in the process of amazing advancement in the fields of Representative Government. The treatment of the savages (Aztecs) was conducive to the nature of the savages (Aztecs).

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Godless Capitalist,

I must repeat the same question I asked of Megan. Have you studied the Inca culture, or the Aztec culture? I assure you, they do not deserve your sympathy.

I am not for the conquistador culture, though it had a few small elements I don't mind. I am primarily against the South American Indian cultures, which were some of the most horrific and abominable inventions in mankind's history. Anyone who inflicts "cultural cleansing" upon such abominations deserves my gratitude and sympathy, regardless of the base motives for their invasion.

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I'm not defending or sympathizing with the Inca or Aztec cultures. I just don't think the Spanish conquest was an improvement, at least not initially. I think its absurd to present the European conquest of the Americas as something that was overwhelmingly positive for the natives; it wasn't.

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Why is there so much hatred of Columbus anway?

While we can disagree about whether Columbus can be held accountable for the Spanish atrocities that followed in his wake, entries from Columbus’s own logs show that he was personally responsible for enslaving, maiming and killing hundreds of people:

On his second voyage, Columbus enslaved 1,600 Arawak Indians. Of the 550 shipped back to Spain, 200 died en route, probably of disease. The remainder of the 1,600 were assigned as servants to Columbus’s men who often used them for sex.

To further the collection of gold, Columbus imposed a quota system on the natives of Hispaniola. All adults were required to produce a certain minimum of gold. Failure to reach the quota resulted in the worker having one or both hands chopped off.

Columbus also recommended slavery to the Spanish monarchs as a means of profiting from its New World lands.

None of these facts are disputed by even the most sympathetic of Columbus’s biographers.

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Where'd you get that little tidbit?

This is a pretty well-known fact. Most serious historians have abandoned the "brutal Indian scalping poor settlers" thesis. I tried to narrow it down to one link to put here, bu there are so many great resources on this subject. My advice is to simply google the phrase "history of scalping" and you will be innundated with resources dating the practice back to 11th century England.

The british government introduced the practice to Native Americans by offereing British Settlers 100 pounds per Indian scalp. The Iriquois adopted it from there.

And I was protesting context dropping and loose causality in historians, even some Objective ones.

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Godless Capitalist, I still don't understand you. I didn't say the conquistadors brought health and prosperity to the Incas (though it is a fact that this was an unintended but important eventual consequence). I merely said, to whoever it was that killed the last Inca shaman, "Thank you." Even if it was am unscrupulous and brutally violent Spaniard who was motivated by base aims and dirty conscience.

I will be forced to post some gruesome details of Inca rites in order for you to admit that nothing conquistadors have done came close to what Incas were doing to themselves.

And besides, I'm only tangentally concerned about the Inca people, and prosperity thereof. I'm mostly concerned about "cosmic justice", for lack of better word, and I can't help but feel glee at those who got what they deserved. And the Incas really deserved it.

---

Megan, you keep referring to Objectivist historians. Specifically whom are you referring to? Aren't you a little too young to criticize professionals with such certainty? And as for your comment about "modern historians" goes, I would be very careful, if I were you, in trusting "modern history". Don't think you're the only one with an in-depth interest in history; just check my profile to to find out that I am intensely passionate about it myself, and by now I've spent a lot of time and effort in learning about history and about historians. I can make these generalizations with little fear for finding exceptions:

- if it's a modern historical theory, it's probably cynical and highly toxic to any person who is still innocent enough to believe in ideals and heroes.

- if it's a classic historical theory, it's probably filled with a very careful attention to facts and just as careful attention to hero-worship, both their own and of their readers. If they must pull down an image that is viewed with admiration, they hastily attempt to replace it with something else.

- if it's a 'modern' historian, he will be prominent and very well respected by scholars and academia, but his conclusions ought to be taken with a great deal of care, and a large grain of salt. For example, that guy who wrote "Germs and Steel". These men will not waste a minute of sleep over insulting the Founding Fathers a little more, belittling America just a tad bit extra, and diminishing the importance of reason and proper cultural values, as that author has done in abundance. His great contribution to history was to teach men that the Greeks owed their superiority to abundance of vitamins and proper climate. Similarly, the African cultures were just as good, but were unable to develop due to unfavorable environment. He should tell that little fairy tale to the Israelis, who built a jewel in the middle of a desert, but hey.

- if it's a 'classical' historian, with a classical approach to history (i.e. an old fashioned historian), he will be an outcast and viewed condescendingly as non-objective and untrustworthy. It is THIS man that you can trust to be careful with your heroes, to treat them with respect just as you do, and to defend them and their cultures against modern historians. See for example Victor Davis Hanson, a wonderful man but practically considered a joke by any self-respecting modern scholar.

Ok I'll cut this short, because I don't want to make this into a treatise on modern vs classical historians (though you can PM me about it if you want, or start a new thread). The point is, don't listen to your modern historians too much, read more Enlightenment/19th century historians and their incredibly rare modern descendants.

As for scalping, give me a break. It is undoubted that the English were primitive and barbaric at one point in their history, and maybe they retained some traces of that by the Middle Ages. But the fact remains that by the time of American invasions, they did not engage in scalping, and the American Indians did. It's not as if the Indians were somehow virtuous before and that's what prevented them from scalping; maybe they just didn't think of it, I don't know; the fact remains that once they were exposed to this activity, they immediately began to engage in it, on their own initiative, with brutal frequency and pleasure, and continued doing this for centuries after any possible European would even think of such a thing.

Don't take any offense for me saying this, but you ought to read less modern historians, and make less criticism of "Objectivist historians". Criticizing more of the former, and reading more the latter, just might be a good reversal to your trend. Along with reading Ancient and Enlightenment historians, as I said earlier. In my opinion no historian today can hold a candle to Polybius, for example, including Victor Hanson whose scholarship is of premium quality and allegiance to ideals is undeniable. Edward Gibbon would come close, but he wrote his books in 1776. They are still unsurpassed today, as even the moderns will admit.

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I really don't think my age has any thing to do with how well I can analyze history. Thats like saying becase Kant is older and more famous than me, I don't know anything about philosophy.

I critisize Objectivist as well as modern historians. History in itself lacks a key systematic objective process that is necessary to understanding the past. The absence of philosophy, even in Objectivist historians, frustrates me. Peikoff says that evil which is evil some of the time is still evil, but Oist historians praise one set of mystics destroying another.

You're right about Jared Diamond (author of Guns, Germs, and Steel), he's a pragmatist historian, the principles he has are inadequate.

If you read my profile you'll see that I am an admireer of Ben Franklin. The founding fathers were great and intelligent men, anyone who says otherwise is using a faulty context. America is the molding of one great idea layered upon a perverse one, and all the travesties of this country can be linked concretely to mysticism. Thats my point.

I never disagreed that the Indians adopted the practice of scalping, but please lets be objective. Both mystic societies behaved ridiculously. There are no varying degrees of evil; evil as as evil does :confused:

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Free Capitalist:

PS: I will, however, take up your advice in reading more ancient/Enlightenment historians. As my interenst lies mainly in American History, I obvioulsy have not read many of the ancients (aside from the usaual Thucidydes). But you're right, it is a good idea.

Like I said, I'm critisizing ALL facets of historians, please don't think my problem is ONLY with Oist historians.

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Is it?  And-do you?

It would take me hours to answer this, so I won't

If you think a person's age dictates how much they know, you are a bad judge. Its important to judge people as indiviuals. To pre-judge someone becuase they are young is like pre-judging someone on race. I know you'll say there is an implied amount of experience with age,but the same in true with any prejudice. Most black people go to bad schools, so then I'm sure you can assume they're (we're) all of inferior intelligence. Bad inputs = bad outputs.

I challenge people of any age based on their ideas, if they burn me...good. I know something new. I don't bow to old age, there is nothing inherently respectable about being old.

And yes, I have a more correct philosophy than Kant.

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