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GREAT FEUDS IN HISTORY by Colin Evans Kirkus Star


Ten of the Liveliest Disputes Ever

by Colin Evans

Pub Date: May 18th, 2001
ISBN: 0-471-38038-5
Publisher: Wiley

Arguments that got murderously out of hand, sometimes literally so, zestfully captured here by Evans (Great Feuds in Science, not reviewed).

The squabbles in these pages were for potatoes both big and small—the divine right of kings, say, or the Hatfield theft of a McCoy hog—yet they had staying power because they were balanced fights: The contestants fought at the same weight. Otherwise, the fighting would have been over before the first bell and if there is one thing that links these feuds together it is longevity. The author knows how to write a lively narrative, swiftly paced but always clearly directed. Everywhere there are consequences to pay, both for the victor and the vanquished: Moldy old Queen Elizabeth doesn’t stand a chance against Mary, Queen of Scots, on the popularity front (but that didn’t keep the redhead’s melon attached to her neck). Aaron Burr’s good aim killed more than Alexander Hamilton—it assassinated his own public reputation, as well. Equally malignant was the battle between the Hatfields and the McCoys, which all started with a pig and ended generations later in the Supreme Court. There are the creepy turf wars of Patton and Montgomery that may have directly led to the death of thousands of troops, the ugly little tiff between LBJ and RFK that sent both down in flames, and Hoover’s grotesqueries in his struggle to subdue Martin Luther King Jr. The match between Stalin and Trotsky best sums up the ruinous and tawdry nature of these affairs—the real prize sought by such elephantine egos (i.e., power beyond the scope of all adversaries) was simply too big to be wielded with decency, much less greatness.

Everyone loves a good fight, especially on the world stage, and Evans calls these contests with skill and flair.