Monday, June 9, 2008

America's Hidden History-- Kenneth C. Davis-- Thoughts

America's Hidden History Untold Tales of the First Pilgrims, Fighting Women, and Forgotten Founders Who Shaped A Nation by Kenneth C. Davis is an attempt to set the record straight about many ideas in American history. The book is entertaining, but at times hard to stomach. It is not a clean story which would come out of a textbook.

For example, the first story is about how French Huguenots tried to settle Florida in 1492. This did not last long. The Spaniards attacked the colony and killed all of them because they were protestant. They did not want the French to have a foothold close to South America.

The book is not politically correct. George Washington in his first military command ambushed a French diplomatic party in the wilderness, possibly sparking the French Indian War. It details how George Washington learned the ropes in commanding an army fighting in the French Indian War. George was an accomplished backwoodsman, horseman, and land surveyor.

The story of Benedict Arnold is very different than the one in the history textbooks. In this story, Benedict Arnold starts as a patriot fighting on the American side. But, he has a tendency to be arrogant and make lots of enemies. Every time he succeeds in a battle, his enemies thwart his ambitions of moving up in command. He also has made many enemies on the business side. This drives him into deep debt. Out of anger at not being promoted, and not being successful on the American side, he is bought by the British. Eventually, he retires in London.

The last section talks about Shays Rebellion and how the founders did not want a pure democracy. They believed democracy was unstable and would lead to mob rule. They aimed to create a republic. The colonists looked to Rome in many cases as their ideal.

I have mixed feelings about this book. The stories are very interesting. There are a lot of neat and different facts spread throughout the book. However, in some cases, he doesn't quite make his case. I am still not sure about the Shay's Rebellion interpretation, nor am I quite sure about his take on Ann Hutchinson.

The reason I might want someone to read this book, is because it shows that there can be a lot of different ways to interpret history. His interpretation does not match with your typical historical textbook in high school or college. It portrays historical figures as having blatant flaws and often acting in a tragic way. Kenneth C. Davis makes historical personages human. Some people will not like this book because it portrays some of the great Americans in a not so great way.

This bookc covers the time period in American history from the first colonies to the Constitutional Convention. There are notes, a bibliography, and an index. Everything is thoroughly cited. I wish there were some pictures and maps in the book, it would have made the book considerably better. I had some questions while I was reading that could have been answered by mpas.

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