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

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What is the main idea of chapter 5 of A People's History of the United States?

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Chapter 5 of A People's History is, along with the preceding chapter, one of two dealing with the American Revolution. In it, Howard Zinn advances an interpretation of the Revolution that emphasizes the aspirations and involvement of ordinary Americans. He stresses the conflicts and tensions that emerged between these farmers, laborers, and artisans and the elites that we usually associate with leading and directing the Revolution. Ultimately, his argument is that, despite their contributions, ordinary Americans were excluded from the document that emerged from the Revolution—the US Constitution. This line of argument is heavily influenced by the Progressive historiographical school, but Zinn also incorporates much of the scholarship sometimes called the New Left. He discusses the many ways that revolutionary leaders—almost all wealthy elites—attempted to control the participation of "poor and middling" Americans. He uses examples ranging from restrictions in state constitutions to...

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lshermansherman74 | Student

In chapter 5 of "A People's History," titled "A Kind of Revolution," Howard Zinn makes the argument that the American Revolution primarily benefited those who were already in power, namely wealthy, property owning white men. This is contrary to the popular belief that the Revolution was fought for the freedom and equality of all men and, consequently, benefited men of all classes and races.

According to Zinn, the most powerful men in America, among them Alexander Hamilton, Samuel Adams, and George Washington, were distrustful of the common people or "the mob," even though they were willing to use them as soldiers, even resorting to conscription, something their enemies, the British, had used. The Revolution, for the most part, did not change the social standing of those who were poor and lacked property, but, rather, entrenched those who were already the wealthy elite. It simply transferred power from the British crown to the American aristocrats, with little practical benefit for most Americans.

Finally, these aristocrats were the primary beneficiaries, economically, from the Revolution. Those Americans who supported the crown, called the Loyalists, were often landholders and a victory meant that these holdings, especially those of absentee estate holders, could be confiscated by the Revolutionary government.