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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » History's Greatest Lies: The Startling Truths Behind World Events our History Books Got Wrong » User review

Not the greatest

  • Mar 1, 2009
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A better title for William Weir's latest volume might be "History's best-known lies," given that most of the misrepresentations detailed here have been thoroughly aired in the past. Anyone who has read a little beyond school books or tuned in to PBS from time to time knows that Nero didn't own a fiddle, that Wyatt Earp was a questionable character, that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was a fake, and on and on.

Unfortunately, the author utilizes pull-quotes throughout (that's the practice of inserting bolded excerpts in a different type face for emphasis), in the style of a magazine. This draws the reader's attention to out-of-context information (because the pull-quotes are often a few paragraphs from the source) that constantly distracts from the flow.
Compounding the problem are inserts running from small boxes to full pages of related material that the author chose not to include in the narrative. So a reader has to repeatedly flip back and forth in the book.

In some ways this is more of a coffee-table volume than a useful history, and a good number of the many illustrations are appropriate and attractive.

A further criticism is that most of the "lies" Weir has chosen are not the lies that have resulted in serious harm to people (the "Protocols" being a significant exception). Far more significant lies have been successfully foisted and done lasting harm. Better sources for those stories include A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present (P.S.) by Howard Zinn and Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, Revised and Updated Edition by James Loewen.

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review by . March 30, 2009
There is no shortage of books now in print that correct what their authors perceive to be distortions of historical facts such as Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong in which James Loewen offers what he believes to be the "truth" about various subjects that include Christopher Columbus, the first Thanksgiving, Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, Abraham Lincoln and John Brown, and the War in Vietnam. When authors use the term "lies," they suggest intent. …
review by . March 20, 2009
Lies = No.      Commonly believed Myths = Yes     While the title is a bit misleading the history that it delivers is well thought facts. Some of the "lies" are pretty widely known to be myths i.e. Paul Reveres' ride, John Dillinger's "Death:, and that Jesse James was not some sort of Robin Hood. Other snippets of history are lesser known and the "lie" is a little more engrained.      What "Histories Greatest Lies" is a bit of misnomer …
review by . March 18, 2009
In one of my favorite "Peanuts" strips (collected in The Complete Peanuts 1965-1966), Lucy is sitting in front of the TV with a mug in her hands. Linus asks her "Well, how do you like the hot chocolate I made for you?" Lucy replies "It's terrible! It's too weak! It tastes like some warm water that has had a brown crayon dipped in it." Taking the mug back, Linus tries a sip. "You're right," he says. "I'll go put in another crayon."    That's what my reaction to this book is like. …
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Cecil Bothwell ()
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About this book


In historian Weir's newest, he examines and debunks popular historical myths, trimming the proceedings in a textbook-like assemblage of color illustrations and sidebars. Weir cites numerous sources while restoring historical accuracy to popular legends, including Nero's fiddling, the "unconquerable" Afghanistan and Paul Revere's ride. Though largely well-written and meticulously researched, Weir stretches mightily to incorporate some of his investigations; his look at Jesse James in particular rings false, citing an "American Robin Hood" myth that Weir may as well have made up (has anyone ever argued that James wasn't a vicious murderer and thief?). A few more stories like this unfortunately detract from the strong entries; especially illuminating are the passages on Wyatt Earp and John Dillinger. Though there are surprises to be found for history buffs, knowledgeable readers will find enough off-track editorializing and fluff to question some of Weir's more salient and interesting points. 125 color illus.
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ISBN-10: 1592333362
ISBN-13: 978-1592333363
Author: William Weir
Genre: History
Publisher: Fair Winds Press
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"Not the greatest"
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