In a lively challenge to mainstream history, Michael Parenti does battle with a number of mass-marketed historical myths. He shows how history's victors distort and suppress the documentary record in order to perpetuate their power and privilege. And he demonstrates how historians are influenced by the professional and class environment in which they work. Pursuing themes ranging from antiquity to modern times, from the Inquisition and Joan of Arc to the anti-labor bias of present-day history books, History as Mystery demonstrates how past and present can inform each other and how history can be a truly exciting and engaging subject.
"Michael Parenti, always provocative and eloquent, gives us a lively as well as valuable critique of orthodoxy posing as 'history.'"—Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States
"Deserves to become an instant classic."—Bertell Ollman, author of Dialectical Investigations
"Those who keep secret the past, and lie about it, condemn us to repeat it. Michael Parenti unveils the history of falsified history, from the early Christian church to the present: a fascinating, darkly revelatory tale."—Daniel Ellsberg, author of The Pentagon Papers
"Solid if surely controversial stuff."—Kirkus
Parenti (Democracy for the Few, etc.) argues that history is written by the victors, and he doesn't like it one bit. That's mostly because, as a progressive, his sympathies lie largely with history's losers. Historians, Parenti insists, have promoted gross miseducation across the board, abandoning "what really happened" in favor of a "pro-business, anti-labor" view of history. In his effort to "set things right," he turns, first, to the writings of historical textbooks, blaming "the powers that be"--historians, publicists, publishers, Publishers Weekly, the culture at large--for sustaining a "mainstream orthodoxy." Parenti then turns to Christianity's suppression of paganism, seen microscopically in Constantine's silencing of Porphyry, to conclude that, as with all hegemonies, Christian teaching and preaching is really just an "ideological justification for the worldly interests of a ruthless slaveholding class." The problem is that Parenti is a much better complainer than he is an explainer. He's at his best when he localizes his argument in a chapter that takes on the "strange death" of President Zachary Taylor. Only there is the mysterious process by which speculation transforms into official record given ample analysis. Parenti wants a people's history, not just another account of the "gentrification of history." Yet the actual story here is slanted, jumbled--tailored to fit Parenti's all-too-familiar contentions, illustrated at times with bullet points.