Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Our Stor[y/ies]?: A Comparative Rhetorical Analysis of 2 Popular Histories of the United States

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Florida Southern College
Just before the campaign for the 2016 presidential election started, Anniversary editions of two works, A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn, and A Patriot’s History of the United States, by Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen, were released by their respective publishers. Each work is a one-volume synthesis of American history written for public consumption, yet each represents a different perspective on the subject of American history. Zinn takes the view that a close look at American history yields a story of resistance to the wealthy and powerful, and Schweikart and Allen contend that an honest national narrative is one that inspires awe and patriotism in its readers. Both books are touchstones of American political ideology, but neither had been directly compared with the other in a study. This thesis performs a comparison and contrast of the two texts from the perspective of their accounts of five important United States armed conflicts. First, I analyze the work’s citations, quotations, and structures on a quantitative level; then, I perform a rhetorical analysis of the chapters in each book about the American Revolution, the American Civil War, the Spanish-American War, the Second World War, and the Vietnam War. Last, I comment on the works’ effectiveness as texts meant for the public and the classroom, and compare the constructions of these texts to the standards, ethics, and best practices of the historical field.
Honors Thesis Spring 2020
United States -- History, Protest movements, Political participation, Conservatives -- United States, Liberals -- United States, Criticism