Blogs > Liberty and Power > Any good American history text books out there?

Jan 15, 2010 8:27 am

Any good American history text books out there?

What are the good American history textbooks out there? The one we use by George Tindall and David Shi declines in quality (but not quantity!) with every new edition. Here’s a telling example. The text, America: A Narrative History (brief 7th ed.), gives the impression that Maryland was somehow a semi-tolerant Catholic colony. This is demonstrably untrue after 1689. Beginning with the so-called “Coup of 1689” and the full repeal of the Toleration Act of 1649, Maryland instituted the strongest and most effective anti-Catholic laws in the North American colonies. A practicing Catholic:
• Couldn’t vote
• Couldn’t hold office
• Couldn’t bear witness/testify in a court of law
• Couldn’t practice law
• Had to practice his religion, ultimately, in a private chapel
• Had his land double (and sometimes more) taxed; additionally, his land was always liable to confiscation during times of war, especially if against Catholics
• Often could not raise a child in the “Catholic fashion” without having the child forcibly removed from the Catholic parent(s) and shipped to England to live with a Protestant family.

The end of such laws also reveal the power of the American Revolution, for the extra legal associations of 1774 swept aside these laws, even as the First Continental Congress condemned the Quebec Act on October 21, 1774, viewing the act as a “power, to reduce the ancient, free Protestant colonies to . . . slavery. . . Nor can we suppress our astonishment that a British parliament should ever consent to establish in that country a religion that has deluged your island with blood, and dispersed impiety, bigotry, persecution, murder and rebellion through every part of the world.”

What a world.

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David White - 1/15/2010

I know Dr. Sheehan would shake his head, but you should consider yourself lucky. There are worse books out there, and I'm not just talking about Mr Zinn. You should browse some of the other offerings from Tindall/Shi's publisher, especially that one from a certain professor whose speciality is mid-late 19th century. I am currently pushing the T/S as a better (!) replacement at my campus.

T/S is quite readable, in its defense. But you're right about one thing: I still like to reread my 1986 [sic] edition and it's remarkable how much of a decline has occurred in some areas.