THE CYCLES OF AMERICAN HISTORY

Schlesinger's first book since his National Book Award-winning Robert Kennedy and His Times, this one exploring the grand themes which he sees weaving their way through American History. The two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner sees themes in contention over the meaning of America. The first, which he calls "the tradition," sprang from Christianity "as mediated by Augustine and Calvin." This strand made of the American experience an "implacable process of testing." As Schlesinger puts it. "Antiquity haunted the federal imagination." The second strand, termed "the counter tradition," also had roots in Calvinism and was represented in an emergent spirit of national destiny. Ever since our earliest history, Schlesinger suggests, our society has pitted realism against messianism, experiment against destiny. Pragmatically, this contention has resulted in alternating periods of reform and retrenchment. Schlesinger, mirroring the writings of economist Albert Hirschman, refers to these as periods of private interest and public purpose. Up to this point, Schlesinger's book appears to be Olympian in its objectivity. He is speaking as the aging historian emeritus who has earned the right to philosophize. However, suddenly the rest of the book degenerates into a slapdash (the book is actually a collection of updated, previously published essays) compendium of political writings aimed at demonstrating, for the most part, his own suspicion of the private-interest periods and his attraction to public purpose governments. He attempts, somewhat weakly, to demolish the idea that America's economic development was a direct result of the spirit of laissez-faire. The Founding Fathers, he states, were basically mercantilists who recognized the need for strong state action; Adam Smith, far from reflecting their ideals, actually wrote The Wealth of Nations to refute them. Undeniably a worthy and important work, if one keeps a wary eye out for the political bias.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 1986

ISBN: 0395957931

Page Count: 516

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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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 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 Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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