In this six-book series, historian Clarence Carson gives an accurate, intelligent, and interesting account of American history, telling the story of our nation in a straightforward manner, not burdened by statist propaganda or starry-eyed idealism about the founders. Mature high school or college students will appreciate the way Carson describes the political and economic background of historical events. The Southern perspective is interesting and thought-provoking. Students will gain a better understanding of what really happened in American history than most of their peers and countrymen.
How Do These Work?
This set includes six volumes:
Each volume is usually ten chapters long, and 200-300 pages. There are no comprehension or thought questions. The Teacher's Guide contains questions, summaries, points to emphasize, lists of people and terms to identify, and activity suggestions that can be used at the teacher's discretion. You can learn much more about this series by looking over the individual volumes.
Our Honest Opinion:
These books are definitely not for young students. Even many older students will find them dull, especially if they don't have a strong background in American history.The often rambling texts could be more concise. The books are poorly edited and not very well-produced. Pictures are sparse (mostly photographs, but sometimes ugly sketches) and color is non-existent. In short, these are not "high interest" books for the normal learner.
So why do we recommend them? Because Mr. Carson's in-depth, conservative commentaries on events and historical figures simply cannot be found in the average textbook. As such, they're invaluable as a supplement and an excellent reference. There are few other American history textbooks that we consider as solid.
The reviews below offer an excellent background to the history and worldview of the series:
"Probably the best available survey history of the United States... Dr. Carson has formed a richly woven tapestry of events and the ideas that spawned them. For Carson, history is not merely a collection of facts and dates, an account of explorations, settlements, westward expansion, wars, presidents, and elections. History is the product of the actions of countless individuals, each under the influence of certain ideas. And Carson explores those ideas, ideologies, and 'isms.' He shows how they were responsible for the settlement of this continent, the struggle for freedom, the westward expansion, the construction of schools, churches, factories, and the founding of new religious denominations. He explains why our ancestors fought for their beliefs, and strove to create a government, limited in scope, with checks and balances, that would not have the power to oppress the people..."
—The Freeman (published by The Foundation for Economic Education)
"By the late 1970s, conservative historian Clarence B. Carson was known as the author of several volumes on American intellectual, political and economic history, including The Fateful Turn, which chronicled America's abandonment of individualism in favor of collectivism in the years 1880-1960 and The War on the Poor, an examination of the disastrous effects of government programs to 'help the poor.'
"But Carson felt that a much longer work was needed to fulfill his intellectual mission: a complete history of the United States that would correct the errors and distortions of those available on the market. For Carson was very dissatisfied with the existing histories of the U.S. As he wrote in The Review of the News in December 1982:
'For years I have cursed the darkness, so to speak, as I have examined and reviewed history book after history book. On rare occasions, I would examine one with rising expectations as I made my way through the early part of the text... But, from the Civil War onward, even the best of them tend to go downhill into the miasma of leaden accounts of industrialization, mass production, the class struggle, the magnification of the alleged injustices of the American system, until by the time they reach the New Deal, they read as if they were written by press agents of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Indeed, some have been.'
"What he wanted was to avoid the biases of 'Marxists, socialists, anti-Americans, skeptics, humanists, and many, many others with axes to grind, 'by committing himself to telling 'as faithful an account as I could make it of what had actually taken place.'
"This effort was to have been published by a private foundation, Western Goals, whose purpose was 'to build and strengthen the political, economic and social structure of the United States and Western Civilization so as to make any merger with totalitarians impossible.' But Carson's supporter in the foundation, U.S. Congressman Larry McDonald, was killed before the first volume had even been published: in an ironic twist of history, he died on board the Korean airliner that was shot down by the Soviets in 1983, along with 268 other innocent civilians.
"Undaunted, Carson the academic turned into a businessman, creating the American Textbook Committee, and went on to publish the rest of his work independently, relying mostly on word of mouth and the eventual promotion of his writings by conservative or libertarian book clubs.
"The resulting history of the United States is definitely my favorite. While most modern historians assume that what the Founders created was a 'democracy' which protected 'civil rights,' and that their efforts were finally crowned by the establishment of the welfare state in the last century, Carson understands that the United States are a constitutional federated republic based on the classical doctrine of individual rights.
"For this reason, among many others, as Carson hoped it would, Basic American History succeeds in 'arousing anew that sense of mission and purpose which brought these United States into being.' "
—Jean-Francois Virey (reviewed on Amazon.com, 2001)
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