Sure to touch off scholarly debate and renew interest in recent, deliberately forgotten history.




A careful investigation of Kenya’s Mau Mau uprising and the manifold crimes by the British colonial government in attempting to suppress it.

Half a century ago, tales of Mau Mau atrocities filled the world’s newspapers, along with lurid photographs depicting butchered innocents and ransacked farms. Such atrocities did occur over the decade-long course of the uprising, writes Elkins (History/Harvard). But she opens long-closed files in British archives—those that survived a systematic effort to destroy them—to reveal that greater atrocities were committed by the colonial regime, which was ill-equipped to understand, much less accommodate, the demands of the native Kikuyu. Inspired by such leaders as Jomo Kenyatta, who spent most of the uprising in prison, the Kikuyu of northern Kenya had taken to resisting the colonial government with various levels of violence, an effort that the government averred was meant to expel all Europeans from the country. Elkins observes that nonindigenous society was sharply divided among very wealthy landowners, who tended to be English, and much less affluent farmers whose parents and grandparents had come from South Africa during the Boer War, bringing the doctrine of white racial superiority with them. From their ranks, using tactics tried in Malaya and elsewhere in the colonial empire, the aristocratic government drew recruits for police and military units that went to work burning villages, relocating their residents to concentration camps, and rounding up and executing suspected Mau Mau. Less concerned with restoring order than subduing the population, the British colonial government and army allowed these Home Guard units free hand. “None of the high-ranking officials . . . actually believed that the standards of British law applied to Africa,” Elkins writes, “and particularly not while they were fighting a war against savagery.” In her estimation as many as 100,000 Kikuyu died, making the war against them one of the bloodiest in European colonial history.

Sure to touch off scholarly debate and renew interest in recent, deliberately forgotten history.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2005

ISBN: 0-8050-7653-0

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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