A bland and frustratingly abstract examination that emphasizes theoretical concepts, paying scant attention to specific people, places, and events. Ponting (Politics/Univ. of Wales; Armageddon: The Reality Behind the Distortions, Myths, Lies, and Illusions of World War II, 1995), argues that a few “core” states (e.g., the US, Britain, and Germany) have asserted their economic and military power to dominate the rest of the world’s “periphery” and “semi-periphery” states. He views the 20th century as a continual, and largely predetermined, struggle between the few powerful “haves” and the majority of powerless “have-nots.” After discussing the demise of colonialism, Ponting shifts to the contemporary reality of unregulated global corporations exploiting cheap labor and material resources around the globe. Ponting also cites problems of overpopulation, especially in Africa, and the related crisis of the world environment. While Ponting’s analysis is difficult to deny, it’s hardly groundbreaking. In discussing the global environment, for instance, he invokes the usual litany of cautionary tales: Chernobyl, Three-Mile Island, Bhopal, Love Canal, and the Brazilian rainforest. What Ponting notably neglects to discuss is how the solutions to global environmental problems will inevitably conflict with basic concepts of individualism and nationalism. In discussing the growing levels of economic inequality among and within nations, Ponting exhausts the reader with a barrage of statistics. (Do we really need to know the rate of automobile ownership in Qatar?) At times, Ponting’s conceptual approach results in bloodless, academic prose. Personalities are almost completely absent. That said, Ponting is outstanding when discussing the most important trend of the post—Cold War world: the destabilizing resurgence of nationalism. Now, more than ever, we exist in a world of regional alliances, confusing ethnic conflicts, and nationalist fervor. The Balkans, always a stew of ethnic and nationalist rivalries, has reemerged as “the tinderbox of Europe.” Other than his highly relevant discussion of the “new” nationalism, Ponting’s conceptual analysis offers little that’s edifying.

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-6088-X

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1999

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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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