Largely overcast, despite some patches of sunshine. (29 tables and figures, not seen)




A compelling subject passably treated by prolific archaeology author Fagan (Floods, Famines, and Emperors, 1999, etc.).

Paleoclimatology, the study of weather in history, is likely to receive increased interest as discussions of global warming begin to heat up. Fagan argues that while environmental determinism is “intellectually bankrupt,” climate change remains “the ignored player on the historical stage.” Taking an admittedly Eurocentric approach, he shows how such weather systems as the North Atlantic Oscillation Index produced what is known as the Little Ice Age, a period (from roughly 1300 to 1850) of sharp weather fluctuations and generally cold and wet conditions that contributed to such disastrous food dearths as the Irish Potato Famine. Several of Fagan’s analyses are very well-done: the expansion of Norse exploration in the North Atlantic during the warm weather that preceded the Little Ice Age, the impact of volcanic eruptions (such as Mount Tambora’s in 1815, leading to the “Year Without Summer”), and glacial activity as a barometer of global temperature change. At times, however, Fagan’s historical descriptions are more general history than specific paleoclimatology (for example, his in-depth but fairly non-climatological discussion of the Irish Potato Famine), and the logic of his arguments are too often lost in chronological accounts that are unnecessarily hard to follow. He doesn’t really hit his stride until the closing chapter, in which, in an eloquent summary, he discusses our current trend toward global warming and what a study of the Little Ice Age reveals.

Largely overcast, despite some patches of sunshine. (29 tables and figures, not seen)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-465-02271-5

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

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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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