Popular histories often gentrify these early events, but Bailyn’s gripping, detailed, often squirm-inducing account makes it...

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THE BARBAROUS YEARS

THE PEOPLING OF BRITISH NORTH AMERICA: THE CONFLICT OF CIVILIZATIONS, 1600-1675

Continuing his magisterial, multivolume history of North American colonization, two-time Pulitzer winner Bailyn (To Begin the World Anew: The Genius and Ambiguities of the American Founders, 2003, etc.) recounts the surprisingly brutal early steps.

Nowadays, we divide the parties into whites and nonwhites, but no Native American saw it that way. They considered whites subhuman but no less subhuman than members of other tribes with which they fought constantly. Bailyn reminds readers that America’s earliest settlers in 1607 Jamestown were not seeking land or liberty but the bonanza of riches the Spanish had discovered further south. For years, arrivals were dominated by upper-class adventurers who shunned manual labor, dying en masse of starvation, disease and Indian attack. As late as 1610, the first ship to arrive after winter greeted 60 skeletal survivors begging for food. After 1614, tobacco farming ensured the colony’s survival and the Indians’ doom. Schoolchildren learn about Lord Baltimore’s effort to provide a tolerant Catholic haven in Maryland but not about the fierce hatred this provoked from Protestants (always a majority even in Maryland) that produced a bloody quasi-civil war. New Holland remained underpopulated because the prosperous Dutch eschewed immigration; disputes and smuggling drained the ruling trading company’s profits. Its governor provoked local tribes who annihilated distant settlements and threatened Manhattan, whose quarrelsome citizens refused to resist when English forces arrived in 1664. Religious freedom brought the first settlers to Massachusetts where they established a positively Orwellian theocracy, treating nonconformists with marginally less brutality than the Indians.

Popular histories often gentrify these early events, but Bailyn’s gripping, detailed, often squirm-inducing account makes it abundantly clear how ungenteel they actually were.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-394-51570-0

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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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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