A People's History of the United States Questions and Answers
by Howard Zinn

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In A People's History of the United States, what evidence does Zinn offer to support his assertion that "colonies, as it seems, were societies of contending classes"? Why is this significant?

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In discussing the formation of England’s North American colonies that would later become the core of the United States, Howard Zinn looks (Chapter 3) at the origins of the settlers in class and race terms. Along with the massive enslavement of Africans, both before and after they were taken to the New World, various systems of servitude kept poor white in subordinate positions. The gap between rich and poor was already well established in 17th-century England. Indenture was one common system into which poor whites were bound, but not all of the whites participated in such arrangements, and many others were dismissed from their positions.

Zinn explores the case of Boston, Massachusetts from the 1680s – 1770s. Estimates show that by 1770, almost 30 percent of adult males were poor, but “the top 1 percent of property owners owned 44 percent of the wealth” (49). He cites contemporary newspapers and recent secondary sources that examined New England and other East Coast regions, which...

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