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THE POWER OF KNOWLEDGE

HOW INFORMATION AND TECHNOLOGY MADE THE MODERN WORLD

General readers will leave better informed but little wiser.

A comprehensive chronicle of the collection and uses of information during the last six centuries.

Prolific historian Black (History/Exeter Univ.; War and Technology, 2013, etc.) sets out to explain how the acquisition and uses of information since the late Middle Ages contributed to the development of cultures around the world and to Western cultural, political and military hegemony. During this period, the nature and perception of information changed as reliance on classical and ecclesiastical authority gave way to a greater respect for empirical facts. Governments needed information primarily for taxation and military purposes, and businesses used it to expand trading opportunities. As more, and timelier, information became available, new uses for it emerged, and new demands as well. For example, in the 20th century, "understanding and addressing social problems and economic issues on an unprecedented scale became of greater importance for governments than heretofore and helped direct their engagement with information gathering.” These developments built on one another, particularly in the West, though Black devotes much attention to tracking similar developments in Asian and Islamic societies as well. Despite these nods to multiculturalism, the author is compelled to admit that advances in information gathering and processing ultimately faltered there, or as he puts it, these "technologies were open to all Westerners but were only slowly or poorly adopted by non-Westerners….The ability to gather, manipulate and deploy information therefore gave the Western nations a distinct and significant strategic advantage." Erudite and prolix, this is a book by an academic for other academics. Clearly the product of exhaustive research, it is a torrent of facts but, ultimately, to no clear purpose. Far more valuable and readable would have been a more selective use of facts to support an overarching thesis, but nothing of the sort ever emerges; it is all trees and no forest.

General readers will leave better informed but little wiser.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-300-16795-5

Page Count: 508

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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