Colonial history that admirably complicates the history of Indian/white relations in Virginia.



Not only did a love-struck Pocahontas not throw herself before John Smith and save his life, but she probably didn’t even like him much.

The English settlers who arrived in Jamestown in 1607 came with high hopes: they trusted that the Spanish, who practically owned the Americas, would leave them alone, and they trusted that the Indians of the York River region would gladly slip into serfdom and keep them fed. The Spanish, in fact, didn’t come calling. But they had before, and the Indians of the Chesapeake Bay region had suffered terribly from their visits. Naturally enough, they suspected that the English and the Spanish had similar designs on their homeland, and Chief Powhatan himself asked John Smith: “In how many daies will there come hither any more English ships?” The Chesapeake people had reason for their suspicions because, writes Townsend (History/Colgate Univ.), John Smith “saw Hernando Cortés as something of a role model, or . . . he at least saw himself as one in a long line of great conquistadors.” And what would Hernando do, given recalcitrant Indians and other frontier rigors? Why, he’d kidnap an Indian princess, in this case Powhatan’s daughter Pocahontas, and then concoct a useful mythology that she had thrown herself at him out of sheer lust. Smith and other “storytellers subverted her life,” writes Townsend, “to satisfy their own need to believe that the Indians loved and admired them (or their cultural forebears), without resentments, without guile.” But, as it happens, the Indians had other feelings, and not long after the death of Pocahontas’s English husband John Rolfe and four years after Powhatan had died, the Indians staged one final uprising, their last hurrah. Townsend writes that nothing Pocahontas herself, who died young, or “Queen Cockacoeske, or others like them” could have done would have saved the native peoples of the region. Yet, she adds, “It is important to do them the honor of believing that they did their best.”

Colonial history that admirably complicates the history of Indian/white relations in Virginia.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-8090-9530-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2004

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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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