‘The American Yawp,’ a free history textbook published online

11 Mar

“I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world,” Walt Whitman declares in Leaves of Grass. How he ended the line without an exclamation point always puzzled me, but maybe it was implicit. The poet sang “the body electric,” and every line was meant to zap the reader into a higher state of awareness.

Whitman would have been pleased to see the new American history textbook called The American Yawp — and not just for its allusive title. As a sometime school teacher and educational reformer, he wanted “free, ample and up-to-date textbooks, preferably by the best historians” (to quote one discussion of this aspect of the poet’s life). Yawp’s 30 chapters cover American history from the last ice age through the appearance of the millennial generation. It has plenty about the founders and the origins of the U.S., but avoids a triumphalist tone and includes material on inequality — including economic inequality — throughout. It was prepared through the collaborative efforts of scores of historians. And the creators have published it online, for free.

Find out more about this free online U.S. history text from an interview with the editors at Inside Higher Ed here: Interview with editors of ‘The American Yawp,’ a free history textbook published online @insidehighered.

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