Philip Burnham - Journalist * Historian * Author

How the Other Half Lived cover jacket image

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How the Other Half Lived: A People's Guide to American Historic Sites

From Mount Vernon to the Alamo, from Plimoth Plantation to the Little Bighorn, telling American history is a big business. Many Americans, in fact, get their only historical information at public parks, homes, and monuments across the country. And while they may learn about George Washington or George Armstrong Custer along the way, the millions of slaves, servants, native people, and immigrant laborers who built much of America have become almost invisible in the public eye.

How the Other Half Lived evaluates how over 30 historic sites represent the contributions of women, Native Americans, African Americans, Chinese Americans, and others. In doing so, it details the lives of the great unwashed who cooked and farmed, labored and fought, endured and survived. Philip Burnham recounts his travels to sites across the country, reading official histories with a critical and humorous eye. We see how the darker side of the California missions has long been suppressed; how visitors re-imagine the roles of master and slave at Somerset Place plantation in North Carolina; how women fared in the "utopian" community of New Harmony, Indiana.

How has the statue of an English soldier created controversy in a small New England town? How have restored plantations sought to gentrify the memory of slavery? How will a preserved battlefield on the Rio Grande revive memories of a bitter war with Mexico? How the Other Half Lived reveals that, in spite of its enormous influence on history, a significant part of the population remains almost invisible at some of the most visited monuments in the country, and what many sites are doing to remedy this.





Library Journal : “Burnham skewers with wit and intelligence the “official” story at each site…This book is guaranteed to offend some and educate many.”

American Heritage : “This eloquent road book…enriches each story by restoring what was smoothed over or perhaps never known.”

Daily Hampshire Gazette : “Thoughtful and concise, How the Other Half Lived is the thing to toss in your trunk before beginning a cross-country trip.”

Westways : “Once you adopt Burnham's critical approach, visiting historic sites becomes much more engaging.”

Austin American-Statesman : “How the Other Half Lived is a journey of the mind…The writing is lively and the detail illuminating.”

UMass Magazine : “Burnham's commentary is fascinating, often funny, and well-written...his book is a welcome antidote to the oft-sanitized versions of history on bronze tablets.”

La Campana : “How the Other Half Lived…contains important ideas that need further discussion and debate, ideas that we need to think about as we develop museum exhibits and interpretive programs at our sites.”

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