Vast, evenhanded and worthy of rumination.

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OWNING THE EARTH

THE TRANSFORMING HISTORY OF LAND OWNERSHIP

A pertinent, wide-ranging comparative study of the unleashing of the “monster” of private property, which has both enriched and enslaved populations.

English historian Linklater (Why Spencer Perceval Had to Die: The Assassination of a British Prime Minister, 2012, etc.) focuses on the history of land ownership as driving human activity from the earliest ages and being the key to the creation of democracy. Were people merely custodians of the land, which belonged to God first and deputized to his representative on Earth, the monarch? Indigenous societies across North America, the Australian Outback and African savannah believed the land was communally owned and used, while in most of the rest of the world—e.g., Russia, China and India—“peasants worked, landlords possessed, but ultimately the earth was deemed to belong to its creator.” Evolving from the collision of crown and chief barons that resulted in the Magna Carta, the impetus for owning land gained steam in the 1500s in England with the land revolution, which displaced subsistence farming via the feudal system in favor of a few rich owners profiting from the buying of land and increasing yields. Enclosures went up, Henry VIII seized monastic land, populations grew and the Pilgrims, flung across the sea in their biblical experiment, decided that possession of New England was earned by the human toil put into it. Linklater pursues the clarification of the rights to private property through writings by Richard Overton, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, among others, and the emergence of “two capitalisms”: one, the Dutch model, top-heavy and feudal; the other, unregulated and guided by the “invisible hand” of supply and demand à la Adam Smith. Yet what makes Linklater’s study truly useful is his comparative global view, exploring conditions within Russia, Poland, the Ottoman Empire to China and India, and through the present real estate market crash.

Vast, evenhanded and worthy of rumination.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-62040-289-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2013

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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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