A frustratingly limited analysis of the rise of Reza Shah, a nationalist who unified modern Iran after years of British control. Iranian historian Ghani (The Rise of the West, not reviewed) describes how Britain wielded her financial and military clout to dominate pre-WWI Iran. With the shah on the British payroll, Iran was ruled by a corrupt, pro-British oligarchy. So complete was Britain’s domination that Foreign Minister Curzon referred to Iran’s leaders as his “puppets” and “performing dogs.” WWI changed the political climate. As nationalism spread across the Arab world, the Iranian people claimed the right of national self-determination. In the face of this nationalist fervor, Britain demanded legal recognition of her power over Iran. The 1919 Anglo-Iranian Agreement, negotiated in secret and paid for with British bribes, “cede[d] to Britain control of [Iran’s] financial, military, and foreign affairs.” Meanwhile, Britain attempted to install a puppet government in Iran that would not only ratify the humiliating Anglo-Iranian Agreement but also quell growing nationalist, anti-British unrest. This kind of shameless 19th-century imperialism proved difficult, and Iran became ungovernable. In 1921, Britain acquiesced to a coup d’Çtat led by Reza Khan, an Iranian military strongman trusted as safely pro-British. Reza Khan, however, would prove to be his own man. He reorganized the army under Iranian officers and ejected British financial advisers. Reza centralized and unified the nation, limiting British influence. Viewing the then shah as a tool of the British, Reza deposed him and installed himself shah in his place. By appealing directly to Iran’s nationalist majority, Reza consolidated his power and ruled Iran for the next 20 years. Ghani has a great story to tell, but he gets mired in quotidian details. Readers will be exasperated by his scant discussion of larger themes, such as British imperialism. Perhaps academics will find value in the details of this account; general readers will long for a larger historical perspective.

Pub Date: March 22, 1999

ISBN: 1-86064-258-6

Page Count: 450

Publisher: I.B. Tauris

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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