A rollicking, if not always enlightening, narrative history of the English Civil War, by the prolific Hibbert (The American Revolution through British Eyes, 1990, etc.). Hibbert concentrates with some success ``upon what happened rather than upon what brought it about, upon the minor engagements [rather] than the major battles, and upon the impact the fighting had upon the civilian population.'' Neither before nor since has there been a war in England that so swept up everyone in its path: By its end (signalled by the execution of Charles I), nearly 200,000 lives had been lost—80,000 killed in the fighting and more than 100,000 from accidents and disease in plague-ridden towns. Throughout, Hibbert displays an eye for the curious and illuminating detail—quoting poet and playwright Thomas May, for instance, on Cromwell's New Model Army: ``Never did hardly any Army go forth to war with less confidence on their own side.'' The author succeeds in conveying the ruthlessness of war and the fears and anguish of those who fought (``Oh Lord, thou knowest how busy I must be this day. If I forget thee, do not thou forget me,'' wrote one soldier on the eve of battle), and he conveys most of his material with great vividness (the Earl of Newcastle was a ``rich and generous dilettante, skilled horseman, graceful dancer, indifferent playwright, and execrable poet''). But what's sorely lacking is the background that Hibbert deliberately avoids: Why the war occurred; why there was a growth of class consciousness at the time; why religious animosities grew so deep; and how a revered monarchy came to be overthrown. Without this information, Hibbert can't escape the besetting vice of much narrative history—that it so often seems like just one cursed thing after another. (Eight-page photo insert)

Pub Date: June 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-684-19557-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1993

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?


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

Did you like this book?