Books by Richard Watkins

SLAVERY by Richard Watkins
Released: March 1, 2001

Contradictory statements, sweeping generalizations, and a general lack of focus make this history of slavery more an eye-glazer than an eye-opener. After asserting that "more often than not, slave and master were of the same ethnic or cultural group," Watkins (Gladiator, 1997) proceeds to note that the ancient Greeks, Romans, West African kingdoms, medieval Italians, Muslims, and, of course, European settlers in the Americas, all imported their slaves from elsewhere. He also mentions indentured labor in some cultures but not in America, is silent on the history of slavery in most Asian countries, and confuses the "Triangle Trade" that included European goods and ports with another triangle that did not. Except for occasional quoted or paraphrased passages from a handful of slave narratives, he seldom names specific sources for his information, and the pitifully inadequate eight-item bibliography isn't going to be much help to readers who want to delve more deeply into the subject. The drab, low-contrast illustrations feature sad-faced figures in mannered mini-dramas with captions like, "Greek warriors lead a captured girl and her baby into slavery," or "The Taino Indians would regret meeting Columbus." A final chapter on modern child slavery, including a short profile of murdered young activist Iqbal Masih, gives this a topical leg up on Ofosu-Appiah's People in Bondage: A World History of Slavery (1993), but Watkins has turned a heart- and gut-wrenching subject into a clumsy, extended term paper. (Nonfiction. 11-13)Read full book review >
GLADIATOR by Richard Watkins
Released: Sept. 1, 1997

The heroic and bloody story of the Roman gladiators is retold in Watkins's debut work, a comprehensive and vividly illustrated guide that will impart his obvious passion for the subject to budding historians. Despite their sophistication in government and the arts, Romans had a cruel and crude taste for violence, and Watkins traces the growth of the games from the first combat in 264 b.c., at the funeral of Junius Brutus, to the elaborate spectacles that regularly entranced thousands at the Colosseum. A job that was first thought fit only for prisoners of war, slaves, and criminals, it became an honored profession that, at the height of the empire, was more than half-full of distinguished male volunteers (women gladiators were officially banned in a.d. 200). Watkins meticulously reviews the training of gladiators and also takes readers through an upbeat gallery of the various types of gladiators who played the games. The black-and-white drawings capture the elegance of the Roman Colosseum, and the excitement of the sea battles that were held at terrific expense; the renderings of the gladiators are consistently dramatic. (map, bibliography, further reading, glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 10-15) Read full book review >