An assiduously researched, brilliantly composed explication of the war’s true nature.




A Bancroft and Pulitzer Prize–winning historian’s unconventional and revealing take on one of America’s least understood wars.

The majority of the fighting during the War of 1812 occurred along the indistinct boundary between Loyalist Canada and the breakaway colonies. Paying scant attention to other theaters of the war, New Republic contributing editor Taylor (History/Univ. of California, Davis; The Divided Ground: Indians, Settlers, and the Northern Borderland of the American Revolution, 2006, etc.) chronicles all the signal battles—for the most part a tale of American fecklessness—in this “borderlands rather than national…history.” The geographic frame better serves the author’s overriding aim, elucidating the intense civil nature of the conflict, in which the allegiance of the continent’s peoples remained uncertain. In addition to the maneuvering for control of Upper Canada, Taylor identifies three other dimensions to the civil war: the Irish republican immigrants to America continuing their insurrection within the empire and facing off against their native countrymen who composed the bulk of British troops; the Indian tribes pitted against each other; and the shrill partisanship between Federalists and Republicans, which threatened to dissolve the Union over the war’s aims and conduct. These components of civil strife overlapped and extended to a range of issues including the composition and effectiveness of militias, the high incidence of defection and treason and the treatment of prisoners. The author writes especially well about the Patriot dream of conquering Canada and the Loyalists’ desire to recover America, the transition of American war aims from acquiring territory to merely maintaining military honor, the foul life of the soldier and the controversies over scalping on the frontier and impressment on the high seas. Most Americans reduce the War of 1812 to three episodes: the bombardment of Fort McHenry, the British burning of the White House and Andrew Jackson’s victory at New Orleans. Taylor’s nuanced treatment explains how a war that ended in stalemate still resolved the unfinished business of the Revolution, decisively dividing the continent between republic and empire.

An assiduously researched, brilliantly composed explication of the war’s true nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-4265-4

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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