HE WHO IS WITHOUT ZINN: Review of Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story By Wilfred M. McClay.

There have always been rancorous debates among historians, and schools of history are often tinctured by dogma. But our current predicament is, to some degree, unprecedented. What we might call the pathological view of the United States—American history as a chronicle of injustice, oppression, inequality, violence, and little else—is firmly established in the academy and insulated against institutional dissent by the custom of tenure and the folkways of academic publishing. To make matters worse, one of the seminal texts of contemporary doctrine—Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States (1980)—is also one of the few academic bestsellers of our time.

So McClay has his work cut out for him. Does he succeed? Well, he begins at the beginning—the archaeological evidence of our aboriginal inhabitants—and like most American histories, McClay’s tends to pass a little quickly over the first century-and-a-half of European settlement. But this is a minor complaint. His description of America on the eve of revolution is perceptive and succinct, and capacious as well. The reader never doubts the author’s perspective on the colonists’ revolt, or British government in America, but he tells the story with illuminating clarity and, above all, fair-mindedness. The answer to ignorance is not indoctrination but knowledge.

This virtue in the writing of history is not necessarily self-evident. The American Revolution, like any such episode, was a complicated matter, reaching back in history and forward in effect; and both sides—one is tempted to say all sides—were benighted and heroic, generous and arbitrary, products of their various places and time. George Washington was not without his flaws, and the Loyalists were not without their reasons. McClay sets all this out in crisp detail, balancing his judgment in conjunction with the evidence, flattering his readers to draw their own conclusions.

Read the whole thing, and then, as Glenn quipped this morning regarding a related book, Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation against America., “Send a copy to the folks at the New York Times.”