Schoolbook Nation

Conflicts over American History Textbooks from the Civil War to the Present
Joseph Moreau
An unbiased examination of the century-and-a-half-long culture wars fought in the pages of our country's history texts


Taking Frances FitzGerald's textbook study America Revised as a point of departure, Joseph Moreau in Schoolbook Nation challenges FitzGerald's premise that the 1960s were the beginning of the end of the glory days of American history education.

Moreau recounts how in the late twentieth century, cultural commentators such as historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and politician Newt Gingrich preached that a new identity crisis had shaken American history in the sixties, and that the grand unified view of our past had given way to various interest groups, who dismantled the old national narrative while demanding a more "inclusive" curriculum for their children.

Moreau discovered, however, that American history, while grand, has never been unified. Delving into more than 100 history books from the last 150 years, the author reveals that the efforts of pressure groups to influence the history curriculum are nearly as old as the mustiest textbook. "For those who would influence textbooks and teaching—Protestant elites in the 1870s, Irish-Americans in the 1920s, and conservative politicians today—the sky has always been falling," according to Moreau.

Schoolbook Nation offers a history lesson of its own: when the story of the past is written or rewritten, truth is often a victim. With its comprehensive treatment of the subjects of honesty and politics in the teaching of history, this is an essential book on the side of truth in a complex debate.

Joseph Moreau is History instructor at Trinity School in New York City. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

Praise / Awards

  • "A superior book... Many readers, even those fairly knowledgeable about the history of American history textbooks, will be surprised to see how today's arguments over how history should be taught in the schools are only the latest example of how history education has been a part of culture wars that go back to almost the beginning of the republic. Moreau's book will help the public see how misleading and dangerous are the assertions of Newt Gingrich, Lynne Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, and a host of others, that historical revisionism of recent decades has undermined the enduring and coherent synthesis of American history... Moreau shows how such arguments ignore a long record of dispute over how to construct the American story and how to deliver it to schoolchildren... His writing is engaging, with brilliant flashes of insight, as well as balance and wit."
    —Gary B. Nash, Director of the National Center for History in the Schools
  • ". . . the most balanced and sophisticated study of the subject that I have ever seen."
    History of Education Quarterly
  • ". . . documents a long-standing [sic] and contentious quarrel. Joseph Moreau chronicles how different groups influenced the content of American history textbooks, and in turn, the definition of American character. . . . Schoolbook Nation furthers the discussion of whether the history taught in schools should encourage national pride, or take a tougher look at the country's shortcomings."

Look Inside

Copyright © 2003, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 408 pages.
  • 9 drawings & 8 B&W photographs.
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  • Ebook
  • 2010
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  • 978-0-472-02602-9

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