A SAVAGE EMPIRE

TRAPPERS, TRADERS, TRIBES, AND THE WARS THAT MADE AMERICA

In a conversational style, Axelrod (Generals South, Generals North: The Commanders of the Civil War Reconsidered, 2011) explains how the beaver’s pelt was the impetus that brought the English and French to North America and instigated their quarrels as they strove to control the New World.

The author effortlessly explores the connections from Samuel Pepys’ hat to the first true “world war,” the Seven Years’ War. Without the Native Americans, there would never have been a fur trade. The six nations of the Iroquois played the largest part in helping both the French and English establish their trade, cleverly playing each nationality off the other. As the French king put more emphasis on the establishment of agrarian societies in the New World, the English stepped in and took advantage of the Indians’ vast knowledge. Where the French sought to integrate with the Indians, the English preferred to replace them. Still, the Indians knew a great deal more of the diplomacy of divide and conquer than the Europeans. From the 17th to the 19th centuries, the colonizers treated the Indians alternately as clients, trading partners, allies, rivals or enemies—whichever would help establish their claim on the areas rich in beavers. Their ambitions were alternately imperial, military, territorial and/or commercial. Ultimately, though, profit and land acquisition was the motive. As the English and French fought through a series of wars, the degree of alliance with the different Indian tribes easily drew the advantage to one side or the other. Axelrod deftly navigates the many shifting alliances while delivering a readable history. A solid exposition of the struggles for the peltries of North America as they established the economy and the politics of the new country and wrote its history.

 

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-312-57656-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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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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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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