A book that refreshingly adds real substance to the abundant literature on Jefferson.


The two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning historian enlightens us on the mindset of Colonial Virginia through Thomas Jefferson’s drive to change the education system.

Beginning with young Jefferson’s student days at the College of William & Mary, Taylor (History/Univ. of Virginia; American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804, 2016, etc.) describes a church-run school whose students had little or no interest in learning; few stayed long enough for a degree. They were irreverent and defiant, and they drank, gambled, fought, and even destroyed church and town property in drunken riots. Due to certain entrenched rules about honor, no Southern gentleman would testify against a fellow student. Within this milieu, Taylor depicts Jefferson as a man trained from childhood to exercise sovereign authority over slaves. Jefferson felt slavery was wrong in principal but essential in practice, and his abolition plan could only work with deportation. Officials in Virginia used the Bill of Rights’ guarantee of free exercise of religion to ban state assistance to churches and repealed the incorporation of the Episcopalian Church. This included cutting funding and eliminating the parish tax. Jefferson fully supported this secularization and planned to use those savings and taxes for a public education system. His master plan included primary schools, including girls, and colleges (secondary) run by each county feeding one university—at Charlottesville. His schools were to be absolutely secular, and while rejecting leadership by blood, he ensured that class distinctions remained, seeking enlightened aristocrats of merit. The narrative bogs down a bit at the end with the history of the university, but Taylor is a master historian, and he delivers a highly illuminating account in which “Jefferson’s social context in Virginia looms even larger than his unique personality and career achievements.” Furthermore, the author plumbs the depths of his subject’s objectives, faults, and ideals.

A book that refreshingly adds real substance to the abundant literature on Jefferson.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-65242-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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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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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