Copyright © Jeff Riggenbach. All rights reserved.

The vision of American history presented in Gore Vidal's seven-novel "American Chronicle" series - Burr, Lincoln, 1876, Empire, Hollywood, Washington, D.C., and The Golden Age - has a scholarly pedigree of sorts. Both its overall view of American history and all its major deviations from received opinion have been validated and documented, mostly by historians associated with one or more of three interrelated revisionist movements that swept through American historiography in the 20th Century: the "New History" of the first half of the century; the closely related movement of the "New Left Historians" who came to prominence more than fifty years later; and the more recent movement of the "Libertarian Historians." That a series of novels based on such a revisionist view of American history could become a major popular success (as Vidal's novels have) tells us much about the attitudes toward American history held by literate, educated, but non-specialist Americans in the early years of the 21st Century.