McCullough’s new book on pioneers’ history draws criticismHistorians in the News
tags: books, West, McCullough
David McCullough is one of the country’s most beloved historians, known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning biographies of Harry Truman and John Adams, acclaimed works on the Brooklyn Bridge and Panama Canal, and for narrating such famous documentaries as Ken Burns’ “The Civil War.”
But with his latest book, “The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West,” McCullough is seeing some of the sharpest criticism of his career.
Days after the book was released and reached Amazon.com’s top 20 best-seller list, a new generation of historians, scholars and activists took to social media to accuse McCullough of romanticizing white settlement and downplaying the pain inflicted on Native Americans. Criticism also has come from many reviewers, including in The Washington Post and The New York Times.
“He adopts settlers’ prejudiced language about ‘savages’ and ‘wilderness,’ words that denied Indians’ humanity and active use of their land,” Harvard history professor Joyce E. Chaplin wrote in a review for The Times on Monday. “He also states that the Ohio Territory was ‘unsettled.’ No, it had people in it, as he slightly admits in a paragraph on how the Indians ‘considered’ the land to be theirs.”
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