Online reading group and book discussion forum
  HOME ENTER FORUMS OUR BOOKS LINKS DONATE ADVERTISE CONTACT  
View unanswered posts | View active topics It is currently Mon Jul 24, 2017 9:40 am





Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 3 posts ] • Topic evaluate: Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average. 
3: Persons of Mean and Vile Condition 
Author Message
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame

Platinum Contributor

Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 5813
Location: Berryville, Virginia
Thanks: 1478
Thanked: 1547 times in 1207 posts
Gender: Male
Country: United States (us)

Post 3: Persons of Mean and Vile Condition
The period between Jamestown and Plymouth to the era of the Revolution is pretty much of a blur to me. What was going on during this 150 years? Zinn fills some of this in, not with a sequential political account but in essay fashion in an attempt to characterize political life in the colonies. We already know that he will take the perspective of the lower classes, the Indians, the servants, and the enslaved. He wears his heart on his sleeve in that regard. Does he have an axe to grind? Maybe he does. Maybe this shows in his skating over of some complexities, which, on the other hand, he must do in order to keep his narrative moving. There are little telling details such as his reference to "the Jamestown crowd," the group of supposed elites in the first capital of Virginia. Bacon's Rebellion was an interesting event whose meaning and causes historians have been arguing about forever. Was it an anti-authoritarian uprising, as Zinn says? That the rebellion contained that element, among others, can't be denied. However, Bacon himself was an aristocrat motivated by having been cut out of the fur trade by Gov. Berkeley, and he had aristocratic backers. Bacon was also an Indian killer leading other whites who wanted the governor to kill more indians on the frontier, or they would do it themselves. It's complicated, of course, and not open to a single interpretation.

Zinn's themes are class contention, severe inequality, and the elite's playing society's lowest and most dangerous groups against each other. He says that class distinction became more, not less, rigid as we moved forward in time. He attributes the institutionalizing of black slavery to the need set the races apart, lest white and black combine to overthrow the white elites. The neutralizing of the threat from blacks, Indians, and servants was largely successful, though causing the rich and powerful many sleepless nights.

Zinn offers his portrait of the time as a corrective to the emphasis of traditional histories "on the external struggle against England, the unity of colonists in the Revolution." He quotes an author who cited "outbreaks of disorder...toppling established governments" in five colonies. That is all Zinn says about these major events. We need to know more or at least be told where to look for more, but there are no endnotes.

The information on indentured servitude was new to me and quite interesting.



The following user would like to thank DWill for this post:
Cattleman, Robert Tulip
Sat Jul 08, 2017 7:41 am
Profile
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
Awesome


Joined: Jun 2012
Posts: 956
Location: Wyoming
Thanks: 408
Thanked: 394 times in 320 posts
Gender: Male
Country: United States (us)
Highscores: 1

Post Re: 3: Persons of Mean and Vile Condition
Like DWill, I learned a good deal about the indentured servant and his/her 'requirements' to the master/mistress. In school (remember my age) we learned that an indentured servant signed a contract that provided essentially, that the master paid for his passage, and in return, the servant worked a set number of years (usually five to seven). Nothing about the contract being transferable, or the other restrictions Zinn mentions. I am no right-wing apologist, but Zinn's approach seems almost Marxist in its tenor. Class struggle, evil aristocrats, downtrodden masses, etc. Of course, given the deification of our founding fathers by some writers, maybe this is not a bad idea.


_________________
Love what you do, and do what you love. Don't listen to anyone else who tells you not to do it. -Ray Bradbury

Always listen to experts. They'll tell you what can't be done, and why. Then do it. -Robert A. Heinlein


The following user would like to thank Cattleman for this post:
DWill
Mon Jul 10, 2017 6:16 pm
Profile Email
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame

Platinum Contributor

Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 5813
Location: Berryville, Virginia
Thanks: 1478
Thanked: 1547 times in 1207 posts
Gender: Male
Country: United States (us)

Post Re: 3: Persons of Mean and Vile Condition
Cattleman wrote:
Like DWill, I learned a good deal about the indentured servant and his/her 'requirements' to the master/mistress. In school (remember my age) we learned that an indentured servant signed a contract that provided essentially, that the master paid for his passage, and in return, the servant worked a set number of years (usually five to seven). Nothing about the contract being transferable, or the other restrictions Zinn mentions. I am no right-wing apologist, but Zinn's approach seems almost Marxist in its tenor. Class struggle, evil aristocrats, downtrodden masses, etc. Of course, given the deification of our founding fathers by some writers, maybe this is not a bad idea.

I suppose it has a lot to do with the time in which he was writing, the late 70s. Maybe in those times a corrective like this seemed needed due to the "deification" and idealization that was probably common in mass-audience history books. Nearly 40 years on, the scene has changed. Haven't you heard of complaints by parents that their kids' history books knock the heroes off their pedestals and disparage American exceptionalism? I'm taking Zinn's somewhat dated tone in stride. He has read a great deal and writes well, so I'm able to take away things of value.
Zinn wrote:
Those upper classes, to rule, needed to make concessions to the
middle class, without damage to their own wealth or power, at the
expense of slaves, Indians, and poor whites. This bought loyalty. And
to bind that loyalty with something more powerful even than material
advantage, the ruling group found, in the 1760s and 1770s, a wonderfully
useful device. That device was the language of liberty and equality,
which could unite just enough whites to fight a Revolution against
England, without ending either slavery or inequality.

This is at the very end of the current chapter. While I wouldn't claim that he's wrong about the motives of those with the most to preserve economically, I just think his claim sounds too pat. It was only manipulation by rich white elites that got the middle class (or some of it) to buy into the revolution? It seems like a very restrictive interpretation. I've read the next chapter and am not persuaded.



Mon Jul 10, 2017 9:25 pm
Profile
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 3 posts ] • Topic evaluate: Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average. 



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:

BookTalk.org Newsletter 



Site Links 
Forum Rules & Tips
Frequently Asked Questions
BBCode Explained
Info for Authors & Publishers
Author Interview Transcripts
Be a Book Discussion Leader!
IDEAS FOR WHAT TO READ:
Bestsellers
Book Awards
• Book Reviews
• Online Books
• Team Picks
Newspaper Book Sections

WHERE TO BUY BOOKS:
• Great resource pages are coming!

BEHIND THE BOOKS:
• Great resource pages are coming!

Featured Books

Books by New Authors


*

FACTS is a select group of active BookTalk.org members passionate about promoting Freethought, Atheism, Critical Thinking and Science.

Apply to join FACTS
See who else is in FACTS







BookTalk.org is a thriving book discussion forum, online reading group or book club. We read and talk about both fiction and non-fiction books as a community. Our forums are open to anyone in the world. While discussing books is our passion we also have active forums for talking about poetry, short stories, writing and authors. Our general discussion forum section includes forums for discussing science, religion, philosophy, politics, history, current events, arts, entertainment and more. We hope you join us!



Copyright © BookTalk.org 2002-2016. All rights reserved.
Display Pagerank