White Trash. The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America. (Isenberg)

I’m not sure why the title has periods; I just noticed that. This is, as you may know, one of the books that is somehow supposed to explain the fiasco that was our most recent Presidential election. Isenberg, who also wrote a biography of Aaron Burr (so Hamilton tunes ran through my head every time I picked it up), even wrote a new Preface to justify this unintended role.

Essentially, this is the history of the United States re-cast as a history of class. This is not to say such a lens is not justified. Indeed, the opening 40 or so pages (including that preface) are compelling. The middle of the book is less so, though it has some energetic moments. The book essentially becomes an effort to prove Isenberg’s thesis again and again, each time in a different time period. Things pick up again near the end.

I don’t want this to sound like I don’t accept Isenberg’s thesis, only that this particular lens seems too narrow during certain periods. Isenberg acknowledges this mostly in the Civil War section.

Interesting and informative? Yes. Myth busting?  Sure. Earth shattering? Not really.


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