The more we know about the Ottomans, the more easily comprehensible the subsequent history of the region they ruled becomes....

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OSMAN’S DREAM

THE HISTORY OF THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE

Readable survey of one of the world’s great empires.

Founded by the Turkoman Emir Osman, who had dreamed that he was destined to do so, the Ottoman Empire lasted 600 years and came to incorporate much of western Asia, northeastern Africa and southeastern Europe. Yet, as British historian Finkel tells it in her U.S. debut, though the dominion may have been vast, it was also tenuous. The Ottomans conquered most of the Arabian peninsula, for instance, but for some reason could never take control of the rich province of Yemen, “singularly failing to subdue it” over the course of a century. They were more effective closer to home, forging an empire by gathering rural Anatolians of many ethnicities and religions and moving them into Istanbul. They similarly pacified the countryside, establishing tight control over the comings and goings of the citizenry. In its more tranquil moments, the Ottoman Empire was an oasis of learning, with much attention given to pleasures and vices. (Its rulers, Finkel writes, appreciated that tobacco and alcohol served “as a means of raising ready cash.”) When bellicose, it was something to fear, as the good citizens of Austro-Hungary and various Balkan principalities understood. The empire dwindled in the 18th and early-19th centuries, as Russia seized the Crimea, and Greece gained independence; it disintegrated rapidly in the early-20th century with the collapse of the Central Powers with which the last Ottomans had allied themselves. Finkel’s text is a satisfying blend of narrative history, anecdote and character study (featuring such players as “Fairskinned Bosnian” Suleyman Agha and Chief Black Eunuch Yusuf Agha). Her careful but brief discussion of the Armenian genocide, however, may not please readers with a stake in either side of the issue.

The more we know about the Ottomans, the more easily comprehensible the subsequent history of the region they ruled becomes. Finkel’s study makes a useful contribution.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-465-02396-7

Page Count: 660

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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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