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A Renegade History of the United States
Cover of A Renegade History of the United States
A Renegade History of the United States
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Historian Howard Zinn demonstrated that there are compelling, alternative histories that are both scholarly and valuable. Now, Thaddeus Russell provides a challenging new way of reading history that will turn convention on its head and is sure to elicit as much controversy as it does support. Russell shows that drunkards, laggards, prostitutes, and pirates were the real heroes of the American Revolution. Slaves worked less and had more fun than free men. Prostitutes, not feminists, won women's liberation. White people lost their rhythm when they became good Americans. Without organized crime, we might not have Hollywood, Las Vegas, labor unions, legal alcohol, birth control, or gay rights. Zoot-suiters and rock-and-rollers, not Ronald Reagan or the peace movement, brought down the Soviet Union. And Britney Spears will win the war on terror. It was not the elitists who created real revolution in America nor the political radicals whom Zinn credits, but the people on the fringes of society who laid the foundation for change and were responsible for many of the freedoms we cherish today. American history was driven by clashes between those interested in preserving social order and those more interested in pursuing their own desires-the "respectable" versus the "degenerate," the moral versus the immoral, "good citizens" versus the "bad." The more that "bad" people existed, resisted, and won, the greater was our common good. In A Renegade History of the United States, Russell introduces us to the origins of our nation's identity as we have never known them before.
Historian Howard Zinn demonstrated that there are compelling, alternative histories that are both scholarly and valuable. Now, Thaddeus Russell provides a challenging new way of reading history that will turn convention on its head and is sure to elicit as much controversy as it does support. Russell shows that drunkards, laggards, prostitutes, and pirates were the real heroes of the American Revolution. Slaves worked less and had more fun than free men. Prostitutes, not feminists, won women's liberation. White people lost their rhythm when they became good Americans. Without organized crime, we might not have Hollywood, Las Vegas, labor unions, legal alcohol, birth control, or gay rights. Zoot-suiters and rock-and-rollers, not Ronald Reagan or the peace movement, brought down the Soviet Union. And Britney Spears will win the war on terror. It was not the elitists who created real revolution in America nor the political radicals whom Zinn credits, but the people on the fringes of society who laid the foundation for change and were responsible for many of the freedoms we cherish today. American history was driven by clashes between those interested in preserving social order and those more interested in pursuing their own desires-the "respectable" versus the "degenerate," the moral versus the immoral, "good citizens" versus the "bad." The more that "bad" people existed, resisted, and won, the greater was our common good. In A Renegade History of the United States, Russell introduces us to the origins of our nation's identity as we have never known them before.
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About the Author-
  • Thaddeus Russell teaches history and cultural studies at Occidental College and is the author of Out of the Jungle.
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  • AudioFile Magazine Whew! What a book! The author's thesis is that America's search for freedom has been defined throughout our history by an ongoing battle of lifestyle between the lumpenproletariat-- the destitute, whores, slaves, drunks, roustabouts, day laborers, and utterly uneducated dregs of society--and the moral arbiters from the self-sanctified strata, the crme de la crme. Russell writes with force and scathing humor. Narrator Paul Boehmer accurately delivers his tone, at the same time sounding intrigued by the unusual topics. He attempts various voices and accents and does a pretty good job at them. It's hard to put this down. Renegade, indeed! D.R.W. (c) AudioFile 2011, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 21, 2011
    Russell's provocative new book argues that America's modern liberties are largely the result of anarchic and frequently selfish desires of outliers. While admitting that a nation actually governed by the outcasts of society would be "a living hell," Russell shows how these so-called renegades have continuously influenced American culture. From the Founding Fathers to the present, the guardians of morality, sobriety, and the Puritan work ethic have historically attempted to destroy the pleasures of life, while the "shiftless"—the singers and dancers, the drinkers, and the cynics—have not only defended the richness of "fun" but freedom itself. Russell (Out of the Jungle: Jimmy Hoffa and the American Working Class) shows how the Boston Massacre was instigated by a "motley rabble," argues that blackface minstrel shows embodied a sort of black lifestyle-envy, and that madams and prostitutes initiated gender equality in the Old West. Noteworthy is Russell's carefully-documented analysis of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal as a quasi-fascist experiment which, originally, was praised by Nazi Germany. While fascinating in content and style, this work unfortunately spends little time on revolutionary political movements and the occasional attempts by "renegades" to move beyond the realm of broadly-defined culture.

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A Renegade History of the United States
A Renegade History of the United States
Thaddeus Russell
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