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

A People's History of the United States book cover
Start Your Free Trial

What were Howard Zinn's main ideas in chapters 4 and 5 of A People's History of the United States?

Expert Answers info

Nona Stiltner eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2018

write750 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

In chapters 4 and 5 of A People's History of the United States, Howard Zinn describes how the American Revolutionary War was essentially a struggle for power between two political elite groups. The colonial elite and the British monarchy engaged in a war over control of the American colonies. However, the American revolutionary war leaders used the anger and discontent of the lower classes of the colonies to fuel the fight against the British crown. The political elite in the American colonies used political rhetoric of a people's war to engage the dissatisfied lower classes in the colonies to fight against the British. However, as the lower classes, and particularly black folks enslaved in the colonies soon found, the war was simply a transfer of power and the horrific oppressions that existed under the colonies continued to exist once America became an independent nation.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

mrkirschner eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2015

write934 answers

starTop subjects are History, Literature, and Social Sciences

In Howard Zinn's recount of American history, A People's History of the United State, Chapters 4 and 5 are dedicated to the American Revolution. Zinn characterizes the revolution as a struggle of the colonial elite with the King of England over the issue of taxation. Zinn's main idea in Chapter 4 is that a large proportion of the colonial population, especially the lower classes, were unhappy with the socio-economic conditions in the colonies. This discontent manifested itself with a number of rebellions of the poor against the landowning Colonial elite. The war for independence against England tended to quell the social unrest, which may have been the point of colonial aggression against England.

In Chapter 5, Zinn continues to discuss the American Revolution. He frames the war in terms of a social and cultural context. The main idea of the chapter is that after declaring a war on a tyrannical king, the end result was a tyrannical congress. The Continental Congress designed a government system that endorsed the unfair class structure that had existed while the people were governed by colonial governors. Some of the complaints that were levied at King George were actions that the new government practiced. In the end, the elites were victorious at the expense of the underclasses.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial