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Thaddeus Russell

Historian and Cultural Critic
  • Re-wrote the story of America with A Renegade History of the United States, an Amazon.com best seller
  • Authored multiple other books and has taught at several prestigious universities
  • Knowledgeable speaker on emerging markets and American business trends
Topics & Types
PoliticsHistorySomething Different

Thaddeus Russell has re-written the story of America with A Renegade History of the United States. Media outlets and college campuses are buzzing about the Amazon.com best seller, and business and government leaders have found in Russell’s “thrillingly original” history a guide to forecasting economic and political trends, both in the United States and globally.

Known for his provocative and laser-sharp speeches, Russell stuns his audiences with what one eminent Harvard historian calls a “helter-skelter tour through the American past” that “will make you gasp and make you question the writing of ‘history as usual.’” On Fox Business Network, John Stossel reported that Russell’s “fascinating ideas make my head spin.”

A Renegade History shows that the lowest orders of society made America the land of the free. Drunkards, laggards, prostitutes, and pirates were the real heroes of the American Revolution. Slaves created a culture that liberated puritan America. Prostitutes, not feminists, pioneered most of the freedoms that women now take for granted. Organized criminals helped establish Hollywood, birth control, Las Vegas, labor unions, legal alcohol, and gay rights. African Americans who rioted in the streets, not peaceful and respectable civil rights protestors, desegregated the South. And zoot-suiters and rock-and-rollers, not generals or the Air Force, brought down the Soviet Union.

Business leaders have found in Russell’s history a guide to locating emerging consumer markets. He traces the origins of many of the largest and most important contemporary consumer markets to the styles pioneered by American renegades, such as cosmetics (first worn by prostitutes); the popular music and film industries (co-founded by organized crime syndicates); and blue jeans and sneakers (popularized by juvenile delinquents). Russell also points to current, unexamined subcultures on the streets that will produce tomorrow’s hottest consumer styles.

Thanks to Russell’s examination of the Cold War, American foreign-policy makers now know that the popular culture and consumer items produced by American business brought down the Soviet Union. He also shows that we can win the War on Terror, just as we won the Cold War, without firing a shot. Today, most of the top-40 songs in the Middle East are American or Arabic hip-hop. American TV shows are raining down from satellites onto Muslim households across the region. Every day, more young Muslims wear Western styles than the day before. Polls show that Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Lady Gaga are more popular in Iran than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Ayatollah Khameini. This is the same revolution that killed communism. And the mullahs know that it will kill them too. All we have to do to win the War on Terror is drop our guns and let our most powerful weapon, the renegade freedom of popular culture, do the job for us.

Forget the history you learned in textbooks and class — this renegade historian will upend everything you believe about the American past. And he will make you see the future differently.

Russell teaches American history and cultural studies at Occidental College and has taught history, American Studies, and the history of philosophy at Columbia University, Barnard College, the New School for Social Research, and Eugene Lang College. He received his PhD in history from Columbia University. Russell's first book, Out of the Jungle: Jimmy Hoffa and the Re-Making of the American Working Class, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2001. He is a frequent contributor to The Daily Beast and has written for The Huffington Post, New York Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor, Salon, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has also published scholarly essays in American Quarterly and The Columbia History of Post-World War II America. Russell has appeared on the History Channel, Al-Jazeera, Stossel on Fox Business Network, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

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