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on March 18, 2002
Some people don't take this book in the way it was clearly written - with tongue planted firmly in cheek. The author obviously didn't mean for this to be a definitive account of all the events covered - that would have acquired volumes approaching a set of encyclopaedias!
What he does do, however, is cause you to pause, and think, about some of the things you might have believed for years based solely upon what Hollywood and others have passed off as legitimate history. Such as those great Western allies and Chinese "patriots" Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek, and those "authentic" Spanish Civil War battle scenes - shot in a bathtub in New Jersey.
What he might have included, as examples of manipulative history, was Frank Capra's unjustifiably renowned "why we fight" video series which shows, among other gross inaccuracies, the "gallant" Russians, prior to the Nazi invasion, toiling away in Socialist bliss. Because Capra compiled this DURING the war, no mention was made, of course, of the murderous Stalinist purges that sent millions of his own people to their deaths. The problem is, the series is STILL being sold as "historical" accounts of the era.
Sure, you can poke holes in what author Shenkman writes. Isn't that the whole point of history? As George Santayana said [and who is quoted in the Conclusion of this book] "History is always written wrong, and so always needs to be rewritten."
One of my jabs is aimed squarely at the chapter "World War II" where the author attempts to justify the appeasement of Hitler by Britain - specifically Chamberlain. He says the Munich Accord [the sell-out of Czechoslovakia] not only produced peace [however temporarily], but that Britain was in no position to take on Germany in 1938.
Now while that is certainly true, what he completely overlooks are the relative strengths of France and Germany at that time. France had a pact with the Czechs, and a move by Daladier and the French Army, Navy and Air Force [which dwarfed the Germans at that time] would have caused Hitler to cave in. Indeed, his own generals were absolutely petrified at the prospect of going head to head with France in 1938 with inferior tanks and less aircraft! The fact is, France did not need Britain in 1938 - except for moral support. What the French did NOT have in 1938 was the courage of their convictions. And THAT Hitler banked upon.
He counted on it again a year later when, in September 1939, he invaded Poland, leaving his Western flank virtually defenceless. By this time Britain was stronger both from manpower and materiel
standpoints, and so was France. An attack then and again Hitler would have had no choice but to capitulate as he was in no position to fight a two-front war.
Not only does the author not even mention that possibility, he then goes on to punch a few holes in his own Munich argument later in the chapter when he says that, when Germany attacked France in May 1940, the latter were STILL better equipped than the Germans in almost every respect [although he does acknowledge that the reason for their quick collapse - quicker than the Poles by the way - was a lack of a will to fight.
But that's the fun of looking back. Opinions will vary widely on what should or should not have been done, and you can argue forever as to who was right and who was wrong.
I like the book because what it made me do was go out and seek the more straightforward, no-axes-to-grind historical accounts that simply present the facts and allow you to draw your own conclusions. THAT's the way history should always be presented.
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on October 28, 2001
Richard Schenkman admiots he doesn't know much about history. he says so throughout the book. "I don't know if this is true..." he writes at the beginning of nearly ten percent of the paragraphs in this slim volume, then tries to make some lame joke about the veracity of Cleopatra's looks or Catherine the Great's sexual proclivities.

It seems to me that, if you plan to write a book exploding the myths of popular history, you might want to start out by establishing your credentials to enhance believability instead of shooting yourself in the foot.

Most of the entries in this book are just a few pages, not enough to establish truth or lack thereof, but enough to provide lots of white space to enhance the thickness of the tome without bogging the reader down with content. To make matters worse, Schenkman writes in the worst Scholastic Book Club patronizing tone, which serves to put off the intelligent reader.

Unless you've tapped out all other sources, I wouldn't bother with this book.
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on July 18, 2000
All in all, it's a pleasant read. The problem is that Shenkman seems to get carried away with the sound of his own voice, forgetting to fill in little things like details, attributions, etc. And sometimes, his "debunking" is unnecessary.
For example, Shenkman spares great pains to tell us that works of fiction (Shakespeare, Hans Brinker, etc.) aren't true at all - they're fiction! (Perhaps in the sequal he can inform us that Harry Potter isn't a real person).
Although he admits his biases up front, this doesn't give him carte blanche to revel in them. Shenkman is unabashedly Ameri-centric, and his prejudice against other nations is sometimes appalling. For example, he denigrates the British for not being completely stoic during the Battle of Britain in WWII. His evidence? One person's diary shows that he (gasp) went to two luncheon parties during one week! Horrors! He denigrates heroes of France, England and India because, basically, they were human. God forbid!
The book isn't all bad. Shenkman (when he actually quotes his sources and doesn't prattle on about minutia) does a great service by asking us to examine our history instead of getting it spoon-fed to us. As such, this book makes a nice starting point for the re-exploration of history. If only he'd given us more to chew on, instead of a thin, sarcastic gruel.
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on December 2, 1999
I found this a great book for the most part. Many of these "truths" of our beliefs I had never heard were false. He presents a good load of information, correcting many mistakes from the last few thousand years. Surprisingly, we learn that the story of Newton and the apple *was* true.
A couple of problems. For example, we can't really know what Cleopatra looked like in person. On coins, she is portrayed very stately, as all rulers of the time were.
Second, the author attacks Christianity, Judaism, and the Bible using beliefs only held by uncompromising liberals. Textual criticism does not hold up when it is viewed in light of unbiased research. His "Bible contradictions" are shown to be non-contradictory if studied in-depth. His scathing attacks on the basic beliefs of Jews and Christians brings into question: what about other religions? He never mentions Islam, Hinduism, etc. I'm sure Muslims and Hindus would refute what he says about them, just as his attacks on the Bible have been refuted by many Christians and Jews. Why he has such a bias against Judeo-Christianity is beyond me.
Overall, though, this is a well written research tool which I would recommend to students of history, as well as those who are just curious.
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on May 31, 2000
The author warns in the introduction that he is not to be trusted, and it is a good idea to heed his advice. Indeed, the book does identify some facts that need to be debunked, as do similarly themed books such as Myth Information by J. Allen Varasdi and Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen. And Shenkman is an amusing writer with a reader-friendly style. But Shenkman doesn't deal primarily with specific factoids that are simply incorrect. He sprinkles historical facts into a highly subjective view of history. True, some subjective views may not fit the facts well, but Shenkman often settles for exploding an old hasty generalization by substituting a generalization of his own. Too often, he cites "no evidence" as permission to draw conclusions that themselves have no support. If you know something about history, this book is apt to frustrate you. If you don't know much history, this book is no place to start.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon October 29, 2006
As with most TV series you get statements with out support. So I tracked down the Richard Shenkiman book to get some background to the statements about American myths. I was not disappointed. It is as if he was reading this book on the TV with more graphic representations for the different media.

The book is worth reading. However the format may not be to some peoples liking as it is short choppy statements and the chapters are divided into subjects as, Discoverers and Inventors, Presidents, Sex, and Art.

There is a fair set of footnotes to lead you to further reading. You may need this as he sometimes stretches a point.

Final analysis, you are better off reading this to give a better perspective on reality. Read it to your kids and save them a lifetime of "Legends, Lies & Cherished Myths of American History".
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on July 29, 2002
This author writes one lie after another! The author makes a living off of lying to thousands of readers. He through the entire book demotes heros and heroines like Joan of Arc and Cathrine the Great to dust, and raises evil demons like Nero and Hitler to gods. A quote from the book is, "Nero was not ALL bad, sure he slaughtered his wife, but all the other women he slept with he never lad a finger on!" It also has to attack Christians and Jews by insulting the Bible! Sure some maybe true, but not much. History is my favorite subject, and this is not history. It's just a bunch of lies.
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on September 14, 1999
I have to take Western Civilizations as part of my requirements this year. Our teacher read to us some of the sections of this book pertaining to Greece and Rome, what we are currently studying. I found it fascinating that the legendary city of Troy did exist, and in fact, there were several Troys, but none were home to infamous Trojan War, which was a legend. I've got to get this book to learn more interesting facts about other commonly believed myths in the world!
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on December 28, 2003
Rick Shenkman is a talented historian whose skill at writing makes his understanding of history all the easier to comprehend. Witty and irreverant, democratically short and readable, this book is useful to both the historical novice and the more sophisticated student of things past. Anecdote after anecdote, Shenkman humourously points to the narrow line that separates myth from history. A must for everyone!
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