Superficial analysis and a rash of factual errors combine to drain this volume of any value it might otherwise have had.



In this search for guidance from the past, pop historian Fawcett (Trust Me, I Know What I'm Doing: 100 More Mistakes that Lost Elections, Ended Empires, and Made the World What It Is Today, 2012, etc.) surveys disparate issues ranging from terrorism and pandemics to unemployment and recessions. However, any book that attempts to derive lessons from history must first get the facts right.

This one is replete with falsehoods and fantasies that startle and amaze. Among the author’s more astonishing assertions: Ethiopia successfully repelled the Italian invasion of 1935; in 1915, Turkish troops killed 27,000 Armenians in Monastir, Tunisia; on October 9, 2002, the stock market crashed, and Yahoo stock lost 90 percent of its value in less than two days. The first assertion is sadly false, while the other two are pure fabrications. Perceptive readers will quickly lose confidence in any of the author's purported statements of fact and thus, with any conclusions that might be drawn from them. Even when Fawcett correctly recognizes a historical trend, the lessons he perceives are generally both obvious and useless. Afghanistan is a fractured nation that resists foreign occupiers and central government. Africa must overcome tribalism and corruption if it is to prosper. Hyperinflation can be ruinous. And the even less helpful: "What history seems to give us today are questions, not solutions." Fawcett sees America going the way of the British and Roman empires if we don't, well, do something, like strengthen the middle class. How? Neither history nor Fawcett seems to know.

Superficial analysis and a rash of factual errors combine to drain this volume of any value it might otherwise have had.

Pub Date: March 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0062069061

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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...


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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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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