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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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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