For many Americans, guns seem to be a fundamental part of the American experience – and always have been. But in 2000, Emory University history professor Michael A. Bellesiles published a startling book, “Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture,” that challenged this conventional wisdom. Throughout American history, opined Bellesiles, guns were much rarer, and more rigorously controlled, than popular culture and gun-rights advocates would have us believe. Gun-controllers were beside themselves with delight, and Bellesiles was showered with accolades — including the Bancroft Prize, the nation’s most prestigious award for a history book.
Within two short years, however, Bellesiles’ scholarship would be exposed as not only shoddy but fraudulent, leading to the loss of his professorship at Emory, the revocation of his prize, and the withdrawal of his book from publication. The prime mover behind that truth campaign was Clayton Cramer, a fellow historian who had been challenging Bellesiles’ false claims ever since they began circulating in academic circles. Now, in “Armed America: The Remarkable Story of How and Why Guns Became as American as Apple Pie,” Cramer delivers the definitive answer to Bellesiles and his anti-gun supporters ? who incredibly, continue to argue that the problems with Arming America are confined to a few paragraphs.
Cramer not only debunks Bellesiles’ anti-gun myths, but takes readers along a winding historical trail full of surprising revelations and riveting anecdotes, as he explain the roots of America’s gun culture. With scholarship as sound and honest as Bellesiles’ was shoddy and deceptive, Cramer explains how common guns were in early America; what laws regulated their use; the practice, pastime, and sport of hunting in early America; and much more.
“The evidence this book examines is very clear,” writes Cramer. “Guns were a fundamental part of the American experience from the founding of the first English colonies. Americans used guns initially as tools for individual self-protection and hunting, but by the time of the American Revolution, firearms became symbols of citizenship, intimately tied to defending political rights. Gun ownership was not universal in early America — but in every period, in every region, the evidence from written accounts, from probate inventories (the documents assessing the value of an estate after a person’s death), from archaeological digs, and from official records demonstrates that gun ownership in our nation’s early history was the norm — not the exception.” You’ll discover:
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