A wealth of research for the armchair traveler and historian.

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THE LAST BLANK SPACES

EXPLORING AFRICA AND AUSTRALIA

An academic correction of the “triumphalist” notion of British exploration of Africa and Australia.

Kennedy (History and International Affairs/George Washington Univ.) sorts through a far more complicated and messy history of 19th-century British exploration than the record has assumed, taking into account much failure as well as a deep reliance on indigenous help. The author asserts that the first British explorers of Australia and Africa looked to the vast continents much as the seafaring explorers had regarded the sea before them, as great unknown oceans, blank spaces to be “measured, mapped, quantified, classified, catalogued, and compared.” Kennedy sees in this epistemological process a form of “erasure” in order to impose upon the unknown continents a “maritime model” such as was employed by Capt. James Cook. Verification required eyewitness accounts scrupulously backed up by scientific method, such as demonstrated in James Bruce’s Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile (1790) and Alexander von Humboldt’s inspiring field research work through Spanish America. A network of organizations (and accompanying armchair geographers) emerged to sponsor and criticize the scientific enterprise, such as the African Association founded by Joseph Banks. Besides accounts by well-known explorers like David Livingstone, Henry Morton Stanley and John Hanning Speke, Kennedy also looks at travels to Africa by women—e.g., May French Sheldon and Mary Kingsley—and sifts through the explorers’ methodology, shifting logistics depending on circumstances and setbacks, and reliance on indigenous guides. Moreover, Kennedy teases out a fascinating comparative study of Australian versus African exploration that takes into account the early British settlers’ colonies in the former and the richly entrenched indigenous societies and forbidding disease environment in the latter.

A wealth of research for the armchair traveler and historian.

Pub Date: March 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-674-04847-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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