Here, LSU history professor Royster (Light-Horse Harry Lee and the Legacy of the American Revolution, 1981; A Revolutionary People at War, 1980) shows how both the North and South clamored for massive and lethal action against one another in the Civil War, only to find that the violence surpassed their fantasies of mayhem in unexpectedly nasty ways. Largely foregoing discussions of weaponry and strategy in favor of individual and mass motivation, Royster ably illustrates how war was used to resolve deep uncertainties over liberty and federal authority dating back to the American Revolution. Not by accident were the two fiercest warriors of the conflict Jackson and Sherman, who ``epitomized the waging of successful war by drastic measures justified with claims to righteousness.'' For Jackson, with a Calvinist zeal for self-improvement, the war was an attempt to prove, on a national scale, that ``you can be whatever you resolve to be''; for Sherman, the war had to be brought to a swift halt before it undermined the foundations of order he had seen threatened in post-Gold Rush San Francisco and antebellum Louisiana. Royster's blend of brilliantly written descriptive tableaus (e.g., Jackson's mortal wounding at Chancellorsville by friendly fire, Sherman's destruction of Columbia, S.C.) and analysis of both sides' heated rhetoric is not particularly smooth. But he skillfully explains why Jackson and Sherman became such powerful symbols of unrelenting determination—and he demonstrates how Yankees and Rebels yielded successively to illusion, shock, ever-mounting slaughter, and endless postwar efforts to justify the violence. A subtle and elegant attempt to examine the hearts and minds of Unionists and Confederates—and the drastic means both used to give shape to radically different visions of nationality and freedom. (Twenty-two photographs and six maps—not seen.)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 1991

ISBN: 0-394-52485-3

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1991

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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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