A WORLD ON FIRE

BRITAIN'S CRUCIAL ROLE IN THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR

Exhaustive record of Britain’s growing alarm at the escalating American Civil War and outright sympathy and shelter for the Confederacy.

The Civil War exacerbated old grievances still rankling between the United States and England, which held the moral high ground on slavery and disdained American “exceptionalism.” Whitbread Prize–winning historian Foreman (Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire, 1999) embraces a vast enterprise, from the buildup to war to the aftermath, and does not fail to amplify in a leisurely narrative fashion all facets of the complicated British and American relationship, including diplomatic, political and military. The author also features accounts by countless other observers, pro-Confederate and pro-Union. English textile mills relied on Southern cotton, while the South leaned on British finance to manage its debt crisis; with the Union blockade of Confederate ports from April 1860 onward, the U.S. and England approached war with each other. Public opinion ran hot or cold, depending on dispatches by journalists such as William Howard Russell for The Times and artistic renderings by Frank Vizetelly (he was present during Jefferson Davis’ last days as a fugitive). After President Lincoln’s assassination, the British press underwent a thorough self-castigation for its pro-Southern coverage. With General Lee’s victory at Bull Run, and subsequent march north, the Confederacy anticipated the British gesture of Southern Recognition. Despite avowed British neutrality, the North widely believed that Britain was supporting the Confederacy’s blockade-running efforts. Yet the Southern defeat at Antietam began to reveal great holes in Lee’s army, and the British could never entirely shake their abhorrence to slavery—leaving the South to its “utter isolation.” Foreman’s dense narrative ably—but lengthily—reveals the passions that this war aroused overseas. A staggering work of research, occasionally toilsome to read.

 

Pub Date: June 28, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-375-50494-5

Page Count: 1008

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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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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