Speaking of conservative histories, I’d be remiss in not mentioning A Patriot’s History of the United States, a jaw-droppingly terrible book that would only appeal to readers who aren’t literate enough to comprehend Paul Johnson’s vastly superior History of the American People.
How bad is it? Here’s the last paragraph of the review I wrote recently for The History Teacher (.pdf available here):
Worse, in their chapters on recent U.S. history, the authors make claims that are not even remotely endorsed by the footnoted sources. In excoriating the Great Society, for instance, Schweikart and Allen observe that one “malignant result of AFDC’s no-father policy was that it left inner-city black boys with no male role models” (689). In support of this Gingrichian pronouncement, the authors cite a single 1989 study from Social Forces — an article that makes no mention of AFDC, inner-city black youth, or role models and, indeed, has almost nothing to do with the argument to which it is attached. In the same paragraph, we read further that after the 1960s, “gang leaders from Portland to Syracuse, from Kansas City to Palmdale, inducted thousands of impressionable young males into drug running, gun battles, and often death” (689). For this dramatic observation, the authors rely on two broad studies of family structure and drug use, published eight years apart in the Journal of Marriage and the Family. Among the phrases that do not appear in either study: “Gang leaders,” “Portland,” “Syracuse,” “Kansas City,” “Palmdale,” “impressionable young males,” “drug running,” “gun battles,” and “death.” With little effort, this reviewer has identified nearly a dozen such cases in which the authors have tortured their sources to score points against social programs they oppose, political philosophies to which they object, or historical actors whom they do not like. Evidently, the virtues endorsed by A Patriot’s History do not apply to the authors themselves. As “intelligent design” simulates the language and structure of evolutionary biology, A Patriot’s History simulates the language and structure of historical writing. Discerning readers will not be fooled.
Any number of metaphors would have worked there at the end, I suppose. I might have described it as “the historical analogue to the Office of Special Plans,” or “A Million Little Pieces of conservative historiography,” or “a book that promises to do for conservative history what Piltdown Man did for paleoanthropology.” But that would have been mean.
The authors, mysteriously, have chosen not to highlight my review on the book’s website. But hey, when you receive endorsements from FrontPage Magazine and some guy with a blog, your ascent through the right wing shadow academy is complete!