Highly accessible history, full of illuminating asides on such things as the world’s most famous diamond, the perils of...

THE MUGHAL THRONE

THE SAGA OF INDIA’S GREAT EMPERORS

A thoroughgoing study of India’s golden age, questioning the utility of golden ages and warning that tradition, “however glorious, is what a people have to grow out of.”

Madras-based magazine editor and historian Eraly has an obvious fondness for the glory days of India’s Mughal period, an era that lasted less than two centuries but led to such astonishing monuments as the Taj Mahal and even a few moments of peace among the loosely knit country’s religious factions. The first of the Mughal rulers, a descendant of both Timur the Lame and Genghis Khan, had the imposing birth name of Zahiruddin Muhammad (Muhammad, defender of the faith) but was known as Babur, “Tiger.” His vast army swept across much of northern India by way of Persia and Afghanistan, establishing an Indian throne in 1526; his subsequent war on a Rajput-Afghan alliance turned on a fine, almost legendary moment in which the hard-drinking, opium-smoking king renounced such things, returned to Islam, and built a fine pillar of the severed heads of his enemies. His son Humayun succeeded Babur and impressed those around him with a gentleness so thorough that he wept while doing in members of his own family; alas, poor Humayun on his robe while praying and cracked his head open. Next was Akbar, who embellished the Mughal throne with a religion meant to transcend Islam and Hinduism and exalt the Mughals in the bargain; opium and wine ended his rule. And so on. While Eraly admits to being something of a moral historian, he is quick to note that the flawed, all-too-human, all-too-hedonistic Mughals actually got some things done, including the political unification of much of the subcontinent and the establishment of an Islamic state that was generally secular until the time of the last Mughal emperor, whose orthodoxy helped bring about the end of the dynasty.

Highly accessible history, full of illuminating asides on such things as the world’s most famous diamond, the perils of eating too much saffron, and the cupidity of medieval mullahs.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2005

ISBN: 0-75381-758-6

Page Count: 555

Publisher: Orion/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2004

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

NIGHT

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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