In Chapter 1 of Howard Zinn's book A People's History of the United States, what are communities?
In Chapter One, Zinn uses the word communities to describe the plethora of Native American societies that existed in the Americas prior to contact with Europeans in 1492. He emphasizes that, contrary to popular memory, the Americas were filled with large, sophisticated communities:
Columbus and his followers were not coming into an empty wilderness, but into a world which in some places was as densely populated as Europe itself, where the culture was complex, where human relations were more egalitarian than in Europe, and where the relations between men, women, children, and nature were more beautifully worked out than in any place in the world.
Zinn also emphasizes the differences between these communities and European understandings of society. Explorers and settlers could not initially make sense, for example, of the matrilineal nature of Iroquois and other socieites, in which women not only inherited possessions, but exercised a great deal of political power. In comparing European and Native American conceptions of community, Zinn clearly views those of Indian peoples as superior. At the very least, he concludes, it ought to make Americans reconsider their popular memory of exploration and conquest:
...it is enough to make us reconsider...the excuse of progress in the annihilation of races, and the telling of history from the standpoint of the conquerors and leaders of Western civilization.
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