Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture
Soft Skull Press
, 2003 - History
- 604 pages
Michael A. Bellesiles's "Arming America is a stunning and seminal book that challenges everything we've previously been taught about America's history with guns. Painstakingly examining the historical record, Bellesiles shatters the myth of America's gun-toting revolutionary citizens. Beginning with the European tradition from which the American colonists emerged, Bellesiles indicates that ordinary people had virtually no access to or practical training in firearms. Bellesiles illustrates a dramatic surge of interest in hunting in the 1820s and 1830s on the part of urban middle- and upper-class men, and discovers that in the 30s the word "manly" increasingly became linked with gun use. By the mid-1850s technological advances had already contributed to an increase in gun manufacturing, but the Civil War encouraged industrialization and gun production as well. At the end of the war, the decision to allow soldiers to keep their weapons transformed the once seldom-needed tool to a perceived necessity, fostering an emotional connection between man and weapon. Given the ramifications of this book in the societal debate concerning gun control in America, many expressed outrage upon the book's initial publication by Knopf. When questions arose as to details of Bellesiles research, the politically motivated effort by the gun Iobby and its supporters expanded to include a committee of scholars and historians who devoted months to checking Bellesiles's footnotes in the archives where he did his research--a practice that is extremely unusual in historical scholarship--and cited evidence of lax research in several pages. In this revised edition, Bellesiles answers his academic critics, providingupdated research addressing their legitimate concerns, while finding that the underlying thesis of his book remains as solid as ever. Legal scholar and historian Richard B. Bernstein adds a foreword in which he examines the virulent power of the American Right to obliterate those voices which speak out in opposition to their own.