FREEDOM

AN UNRULY HISTORY

A brilliantly crafted, compelling, and deeply relevant history for our times.

An authoritative history of changing Western ideas of freedom.

In this sweeping narrative, which covers more than two millennia, Utrecht University historian de Dijn advances two central arguments, each persuasive and clearly backed by impressive scholarship. The first is that the original Western understanding of freedom, born with the Greeks, was what we call popular government, or rule by the people. Yet gradually and more decisively, since the American and French revolutions, freedom has come to be seen as the condition of being left alone by government, a condition embodying another, distinct kind of liberty: inner freedom and freedom of conscience. The author’s second argument, the freshest and likely to be the most influential, is that this shift—a “dramatic rupture” and “backlash”—owes itself not to liberal thinkers but rather to conservative, counterrevolutionary opponents of democracy who feared government in the people’s hands. Nevertheless, within the context of the Cold War, this ideal of freedom, originating with the anti-revolutionary right, “ultimately came to be reimagined as the key value of Western civilization.” Yet because of the expansion of political and other rights to women, workers, and minorities, what’s today taken to be the “liberal understanding of freedom”—freedom from government—can actually be seen in many quarters as “a thinly veiled defense of elite interests rather than an appealing political idea,” as it was in earlier times. A narrative exposition rather than a critique of others’ interpretations, the book is unusually easygoing for a scholarly work on an elusive subject. The author’s main strength is her clarifying directness. Analytical rather than argumentative, she shows how in our time, political freedom—“freedom for,” that is, control by the people—has given way to private freedom—“freedom from,” a moral ideal with antidemocratic implications. Thus endures the tension between collective and individual freedoms.

A brilliantly crafted, compelling, and deeply relevant history for our times. (29 photos)

Pub Date: July 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98833-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Awards & Accolades

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

NIGHT

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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