A Renegade History of the United States: How Drunks, Delinquents, and Other Outcasts Made America


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Painting the Sand By Kim Hughes. Born to Run By Bruce Springsteen. Anatomy of a Scandal By Sarah Vaughan. Forgive and Forget By Patricia Scanlan. The Photographer By Craig Robertson. Russell shows that drunkards, laggards, prostitutes, and pirates were the real heroes of the American Revolution.

Slaves worked less and had more fun than free men. Prostitutes, not feminists, won women's liberation. White people lost their rhythm when they became good Americans.

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Without organized crime, we might not have Hollywood, Las Vegas, labour unions, legal alcohol, birth control, or gay rights. Zoot-suiters and rock-and-rollers, not Ronald Reagan or the peace movement, brought down the Soviet Union. And Britney Spears will win the war on terror.

The more that 'bad' people existed, resisted, and won, the greater was our common good. This book, then, is something of a revisionists revision of American History, capturing the good, the bad and the ugly of our society from the bottom up and centering on how decades of previously unsung and too frequently unsavory patriots defined who we are.

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A central theme that runs throughout this book is the enduring conflict between personal liberty and the interests of the state. A good point that the author makes is that an early argument to stay under the crown of England was that we colonists enjoyed freedom FROM personal responsibility. Such ideas of paternalism remain relevant today. Another perspective taken by the author is that previous histories focus analysis on leadership and prominent citizens and movements. The renegade history instead focuses on a history of the bottom rungs of our socio-economic culture and those groups evolution through our history.

Renegade history also features a heavy focus on race as both a contributor toward our society as it is now as well as an examination of how our cultural and governmental emphasis of race has been a continuing national problem. Russell also pays tribute to prominent black leaders and then spends an inordinate amount of time discussing Renegade African-American leaders who eschewed work ethic and family values and brazenly promoted criminal activity.

Fun, a little too long, but all in all a good, very different, history of the United States. View all 8 comments. Jan 30, Nick rated it it was amazing. In this revisionist history of personal freedom in the U. Russell proposes that our Founding Fathers wanted to take away liberties; that abolitionists were motivated by a desire to make slaves work harder; that the women's rights movements owes most of its progress to Wild West madams; and that the only way for immigrants to assimilate into American society was to give up the thin In this revisionist history of personal freedom in the U.

Russell proposes that our Founding Fathers wanted to take away liberties; that abolitionists were motivated by a desire to make slaves work harder; that the women's rights movements owes most of its progress to Wild West madams; and that the only way for immigrants to assimilate into American society was to give up the things that made them unique. Russell's views aren't for everyone comparisons of New Deal policies to the rise of fascism won't make him any friends among the progressive old guard and he admits several times that the "bad guys" in his book did a lot of actual "good" the two terms are frequently examined and redefined.

But this is an interesting take on what Russell calls the "margin of freedom," or how much the "guardians of social order" allow the "renegades" of American history to get away with. If you love your weekends, value your reproductive rights, and believe that we are a better society for doing away with racial and sexual prejudice, this is a must-read.

Jul 16, Steven Wedgeworth rated it liked it. Well this was quite the book. It's full of interesting tidbits and highly contrarian claims, most of which are well documented. Russell argues that the "renegade" is as responsible for modern "freedoms" as are any of the "good" founding fathers and social reformers. This narrative is a strong push-back against the romanticized and hagiographical narratives of both right-wing and left-wing historians and political thinkers.

I'm sure that there is a good deal of truth in this portrayal as well, as Well this was quite the book. I'm sure that there is a good deal of truth in this portrayal as well, as America has always been made up by those seeking a better life by way of opportunity to work hard, worship freely, and start a family, as well as those just looking to get away from authority in general. However, Russell has a number of issues which give me pause. While he states in the introduction that he does not want a world in which the renegades are in charge, it is clear throughout that he sympathizes with their plight and their values, and he views what most people would call vice and debauchery as perfectly legitimate life choices.

For Russell, "freedom" is the freedom to do absolutely whatever one wishes to do, including the freedom to do wrong. And this is the "freedom" which he continually praises and credits the renegades with securing for us today. Russell looks at drunkards, prostitutes, pirates, slaves, what Russell calls "bad niggers" quoting historical usage , Irish, Jews, Italians, women, and homosexuals, illustrating how these were all the "renegade" groups which formed much of our current society.

Note that ethical choices and subcultures are put on the same plane as sex, nationalities, and ethnicities. They are all on the same side of the divide: This is just too much for modern readers of all varieties, it seems. However, this is just one part of Russell's bigger theme.

A Renegade History of the United States by Thaddeus Russell

Each of these minority classes are identified as "true" when they are being renegades. For Russell, the true African American is not MLK, but rather the "bad niggers" who reject the duties of citizenship for "freedom" remember Russell's stipulated definition. So too with women, Irish, Jews, and Italians. As each of these group gained social standing, Russell feels that they had to drop their "renegade" culture, thus deserting their true identity.

And that ought to give us all pause. If hard work, marital fidelity, discipline, and success are all actually "white" features, then Russell's "renegade" narrative has a serious problem on its hands. He's simply accepting what most people would call racism and calling it good. There's an enormous amount of courage and a sort of integrity to such a position, but I cannot say that it is an honorable one nor that it would be very helpful for the various minority groups.

So this book should be read as a sort of self-refutation. Even though much of the history is accurate and should be recovered, the philosophical and particularly ethical point of view is exemplary of all that is wrong with modern academia's particularly sociology's fetishization of the "other. He just likes to play one on the weekends.

What also comes across is the inescapable fact even admitted by Russell's disclaiming in the introduction is that the renegade world is not sustainable on its own terms. It must have the "good" culture to feed upon, and though it is likely satisfied to admit this and fess up to its piracy, human nature and "real reality" know that this is unacceptable.

This book ought to force us to evaluate the true definition of freedom and whether or not virtue is necessary for a society. If the answer is yes, then it ought to also force us to inquire as how to define such virtue. Feb 04, David Quijano rated it really liked it. The author was promoting his book and talked about the chapter on slavery. It seemed like an interesting, revisionist take and I decided I would read it.

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Six years later, I finally got around to it and I wish I read it earlier. I wasn't really sure what to expect from this book. The author described himself as a liberal who believed in capitalism and since this wasn't a book that was particularly about economics, I expected it to offend my conservative side more than my liberal side.

Having finished the book, I would almost describe this book as so liberal, that it's conservative. There really is no attempt to be politically correct in this book. Many old racial stereotypes are accepted at face value. There are chapters on blacks, Jews, Irish, and Italians among others , all of which were heavily discriminated against at one point. In each case, these groups have or had until they were Americanized a vibrant, outgoing culture that didn't work particularly hard. Being outside of regular society, often pushed them to think outside the box when it came to making money and they often resorted to illegal activities.

They helped make porn, jazz, gambling, alcohol during prohibition, and gay and interracial bars, accessible to the American public. This helped push the boundaries of what people considered their basic freedoms, many of which we take for granted today. There's a lot to be offended by in this book, as many other reviews have pointed out. Still, I think it's mostly unwarranted.

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Editorial Reviews. From Booklist. This ultrarevisionist work is provocative, often interesting, and A Renegade History of the United States: How Drunks, Delinquents, and Other Outcasts Made America - Kindle edition by Thaddeus Russell. A Renegade History of the United States: How Drunks, Delinquents, and Other Outcasts Made America by Thaddeus Russell (1-Sep) Paperback.

Most of what I read wasn't particularly new information. What the author does do is give a new perspective to conventional history. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in American history. Russell's unique thesis is that "bad" Americans are the ones who should be our national heroes because they helped secure freedoms that we all now get to enjoy. By freedom he mostly means having fun - partying, not working, and enjoying nonmarital sex.

The enemies of fun are those who want to turn bad Americans into respectable and hardworking citizens - the founding fathers, for starters, and basically white middle class Protestants. The book is frustrating on a number of fronts. Russell is a Russell's unique thesis is that "bad" Americans are the ones who should be our national heroes because they helped secure freedoms that we all now get to enjoy. Russell is a scholar who has written a popular book, and therefore doesn't spend time defending his arguments so much as presenting them.

As such his thesis is presented as a given. Several chapters feel a bit repetitious: African Americans are shown to be "bad" Americans who won't assimilate as productive citizens in monogamous marriages during and after Reconstruction because they don't want to give up certain freedoms enjoyed under slavery. Following chapters discuss how Irish, Italian, and Jewish immigrants are characterized as "black" - meaning following the pattern laid out in the African American chapters - until they successfully assimilate and become "good" Americans.

Overall this is a lively read, but I think I might have preferred the more rigorous, scholarly version of Russell's work. Aug 27, Kathy Davie rated it it was amazing Shelves: A look at what makes America great, how the discontented, the criminal, the bad citizens changed this country.

Yep, Russell thinks history has expended too much time on the good people — settlers, abolitionists, capitalists, suffragists, conservatives and not enough on prostitutes, pirates, gangsters, and slaves who set the stage for change. Just to warn you, it is a wee bit on the long side, but it truly only touches on bits here and there.

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Most of the chapters consist of descriptions of what some class of renegade did, followed by a brief statement that we should thank those renegades for our freedom, without the first being shown to cause the second. The audio is poor or missing. It's hard to believe that offending majority opinions can often be a winning strategy. Thus far, scholars have shown little interest in finding this conflict in American history Apr 15, Chris Kirkham rated it really liked it.

My Take I don't buy all of Russell's premise, but I can s A look at what makes America great, how the discontented, the criminal, the bad citizens changed this country. My Take I don't buy all of Russell's premise, but I can see where it comes from. There certainly are some facts in here I was NOT aware of from our history. Not from the history I learned in school, and it makes me angry. I hate revisionist history. If you screwed up, own it! Explain what you learned from those mistakes. Don't change things around to make yourself feel better. Mistakes aren't truly bad unless you DON'T learn from it.

It's that old adage: Don't make us do that! You may well be asking what those mistakes are. Well…there's Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal — christ, this is a terrifying idea! Substituting fascism for democracy…ugh. And a good example of why censorship is so incredibly wrong. A different take on the implementation of welfare. It was a "deal" everyone ignored on pain of going out of business. How patriotic and enthusiastic America was about going "over there" to fight in the war.

A new perspective on our Founding Fathers and their obsession with work, work, work, work, work, work…work… Fun? You ask about fun? Oh, my lord, bite your tongue! Well, unless you'd enjoy doing that!? I do like Russell's point that historians chose to interpret people having fun as "resistance" against oppression when all they were doing was havin' a good time. I didn't learn until some five or six years ago, that part of my heritage is… shhh … Irish.

Shhhhhh, don't tell anyone! I can certainly understand why my great-greats didn't want to admit to that one! I know I've read this description of the Irish in a wide variety of books, and again, I'm very curious as to the why of this. I certainly never felt that my grandparents were filthy, disgusting people. But then again, they'd "assimilated"… Why do we have to feel so bloody insecure that we have to oppress others?

Can you believe that people of the time thought the Irish, the Jews, and then the Italians were niggers? Because… shhh …they liked to dance! They liked having a good time. Just like them darkies! If that what makes you of the negroid race, I'm volunteering. Scientists of the times "proved" that the Irish, the Jews, and the Italians were of different races from Nordic races.

When the Irish, Jews, and then the Italians immigrated to America, they saw nothing "wrong" with mixing it up with African Americans. They lived with them, married them, had affairs, danced, and had fun. Martin Luther King was one of the African Americans who wanted to help his fellow man mainstream as well. All this is the equivalent of having to knuckle under to a bunch of bully boys. When you think about it, every generation has its new omigod fashion, dance, music that the older generation claims will destroy civilization as they know it.

And that new generation cycles on to become the older generation shocked by what their younger generation brings forth. Parents were shocked by the waltz, the lindy, the jitterbug, tap dancing, the twist… It was dresses that came above the ankle, to the knee then above it!! Today's hilarious habit of wearing your pants so they hang halfway off your butt, exposing your boxers.

Duck tails, bobs, long hair on men, heck, I'm sure someone was shocked at buzz cuts. And it includes, lol, the Jews' and Italians' valiant efforts to keep us wet during Prohibition! Seems the Jews were pretty athletic as well back in the day…until they were forced into assimilation. Robinson, Kirk Douglas, and so many more. I have to wonder if Americans saw these incoming Europeans as "disgusting" and "indolent" because they weren't as committed to that Puritan work ethic.

If it was because they took the time to have some fun. This prejudice was disgusting, and it makes me wonder how we're still doing it today. What I did love was the joy that people experienced when they "rebelled" and mixed it up — blacks, whites, Chinese, men, women, miners, Mexicans, Indians together! Some interesting sections on fashion, makeup, and hairstyles are scattered throughout.

A look at the Ku Klux Klan and Russell notes that the KKK didn't only go after African Americans, they also went after "vile places of amusement", partially to protect their white women. At one point, Russell notes how the Italians took a long time before they identified themselves as Americans, but in truth, we still identify ourselves by our ancestral origins.

If I'm overseas, I'll say I'm American. And it must be due…gasp…to not limiting immigration enough to keep out the "wrong" element. One point that Russell raises continually is the very different culture of African Americans, and I'm hoping some African Americans will weigh in on this. Russell's statements do seem borne out by what I've read in the news, and it makes sense if what he stated about slavery was true.

A Renegade History of the United States

It does seem as if African Americans were rejecting the white man's work ethic and cultural expectations, which only makes sense if you are offered citizenship in name only. All of this is a result of that Puritan work ethic of our Founding Fathers. Yes, the same ones who also went out and had fun in their own lives, but didn't want it for anyone else. They thought that if workers had extra time at the end of the day, they'd be rested and want to sit through lectures on improvements, morality, etc. Even Margaret Sanger and those who promoted birth control were actually interested in eugenics and controlling the population.

The section on freedom for slaves after the Civil War is interesting.

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There's a different perspective on how slaves were treated and what they thought about it as well as the why of Russell's statements. I suspect it might have been less cruel to be a slave than a white child growing up with parents who believed in "spare the rod, spoil the child". At least slaves had value…jesus. I have to wonder how much of my interpretation of it is based on novels and white historians rewriting history. I can see Russell's point, and he does have a slew of facts and a few interviews that seem to support his conclusions. I'd want to read a lot more primary sources before I can buy it all.

The problem with slavery was that slaves were too free…" Russell also looks at Reconstruction after the Civil War, and if his earlier statements are correct, then it puts a different light on Republican efforts. It also seems shameful. Play by our rules, however stupid, or you're out.

A Renegade History of the United States

I'd want to see more primary sources on this as well. The democracy the Founding Fathers wanted was denial of desire, to feel shame for wanting, to instead desire restraint and more work. They actually liked the boycott of British goods as it would teach Americans to deny themselves luxuries! Hmmm, wonder if Jefferson would have denied himself his books…or Sally? They tried to tax pleasure — and it gives new meaning to the Whiskey Rebellion!

Russell notes that historians [and contemporary pundits] see consumerism as bad. That spending money on anything not essential to sustaining life is "bad", that it distracts from finding joy in working. I'm wondering who decides what the minimum amount is and if everyone is expected to adhere to this minimum. This desire to enforce a work ethic also explains why only landowners could vote! No manufacturers, bankers, merchants, or consumers need apply. Yeah, you won't be able to believe it, but it does make sense if you buy into this. Of course, when you see how many wealthy men believe that consumerism is bad, ya gotta wonder why they manufacture anything.

Although Carnegie did think the rich should be heavily taxed so the state would have a nice chunk of change to help people. Then again, Max Weber believes they wanted their wealth so they'd have more power to control people. That's a concept I'd believe. Then there's his comment about psychologists saying "that sexuality informs all of our social activities and that people are obsessed with sex [NO?!!

If sex is so awful, why do we keep seeking it out? There are reasons today why there are restrictions on various vices such as drinking. For one, back then, nobody had to drive home drunk and alcohol was healthier to drink than water. I've always loved this. Well, I am a woman. When you consider that any woman before this revolution was essentially considered a whore or "asking for it" if she wore makeup, was alone in public, attempted to be independent and more.

In truth, real prostitutes had it pretty good, before the Revolution and in the Old West. Before laws were enacted against it, prostitutes in a bordello had free health care, food, nice clothing, a warm place to live, free birth control, safety, and legal assistance. None of this was a guarantee for "good" women. Ya gotta read what happened in Denver when the council decided to shame its prostitutes, lol. Russell's comments on the Social Purity movement of the s will make you shake your head in disgust.

All it did was lead to women being turned out onto the streets and being subjected to pimps. It's not for nothing that prostitution and brewing alcohol are considered some of the oldest professions. Hmmm, the reason for Coney Island's continued success back then… Before America became independent, sex was freewheeling and women could work at anything; there were no laws about marriage or divorce; prostitution was not the horror we all think it was remember who writes the histories!

What Russell emphasizes is that these "rebels" who enjoyed life, who danced, listened or created music, drank, gambled, had sex are why we and the Soviet bloc have the liberty we have today. In many respects, I agree with him. The entertainment we enjoy today — movies, dancing, music, Las Vegas etc. The truth behind "Dixie" and the Selwyn Theater. And it explains why the whitey ain't got no rhythm, lol.

There's Edison and his Trust versus the nickelodeons along with what led to the Hays Code. Interesting insights into the movies produced during World War II as well as why San Francisco became a mecca for gays! Oh, oh, and the start of growing marijuana! An Italian opera house went bankrupt while an Ethiopian opera flourished, 'cause one was fun and the other wasn't.