THE SWORD AND THE GRAIL

OF THE GRAIL AND THE TEMPLARS AND A TRUE DISCOVERY OF AMERICA

In a highly eclectic approach to medieval history, the prolific Sinclair (Spiegel, 1987, etc.) explores links between his ancestors—the St. Clairs—and the Knights Templar; a European presence in North America a century before Columbus; and a stone chapel in Scotland holding the key to an arcane, richly symbolic worldview. Using the carvings on a single tombstone inside Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh as his point of entry, Sinclair ranges widely, if erratically, in his investigation: to the history of the Templars, their position in the Holy Land, and their swift fall from power and glory; to the intricacies of the Grail legend and contemporary perceptions of the natural world; and to the exploits of his distant forebears, especially the Earls of Orkney. Henry, the first St. Clair to hold that title, not only became a master of the sea with the aid of the Venetian shipbuilding/navigating brothers Zen, but he also embarked on a famous late-14th-century voyage, with strong evidence of his having landed at both Cape Breton and Rhode Island and establishing peaceful settlements there. Henry's death upon returning home ended the quest for a Templar refuge, but his grandson William, the last St. Clair Earl of Orkney, kept Templar beliefs alive by erecting Rosslyn Chapel. Built meticulously over a period of decades, it was revered as a Grail chapel, a mecca for Templars and Masons alike since the symbols found within were common to both groups—and it remains honored today. Sinclair wallows in family genealogy and overly dense detail, but his vast knowledge and clever detective work do create a colorful, tantalizing study of the Templars and the St. Clairs—one sure to interest any serious student of the Middle Ages. (Thirty- two pages of b&w photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1992

ISBN: 0-517-58618-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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