A Renegade History of the United States by Thaddeus Russell

The struggle between upholders of social order and the fringe elements of society is the core of A Renegade History of the United States, which delivers a revisionist and more than occasionally contentious view of American history from revolution days to the present.  It is the author’s premise that the flouters of “proper society” and the common good have done far more to advance our personal freedoms than the staid Founding Fathers and their vision for the country. 

Russell starts with colonial times and paints a vivid picture of a society that had nothing to do with the puritan work ethic, posing the idea that the earliest ideas of an individual’s freedom came from the cultures of the brothels and taverns.  He addresses the issues of slavery and freedom with some definitely eyebrow-raising passages, and then devotes chapters to various ethnic cultures that have broadened and enriched American society, often in the face of propriety.  The latter part of the book covers the rise of consumer culture, Roosevelt’s New Deal, World War II, the civil rights era, and beyond. 

Russell’s approach reminds me of Thomas Sowell’s Black Rednecks and White Liberals, another hard-hitting look at preconceived notions of American history.  Readers desiring political correctness will probably want to look elsewhere.  Others curious for a different take of American history may find A Renegade History…  well worth their time.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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