BEFORE THE REVOLUTION

AMERICA'S ANCIENT PASTS

Readers will find little ancient history in this deceptively titled work, but rather a lucid, thought-provoking history of North America to the 1760s.

Dreams of the conquistadores’ riches influenced British, French and Dutch explorers after 1492, but Richter (Early American Studies/Univ. of Pennsylvania; Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America, 2001, etc.) emphasizes that imperialism, trade and religious proselytism made an equally powerful contribution. For 150 years after Columbus, European arrivals in North America paid little attention to farming (and often starved as a result) but found trading profitable. The author downplays the traditional picture of early settlers driving hapless Indians off their lands. Exchanging a beaver skin for knives or guns seemed like taking candy from a baby to Native Americans. Obsessed with trading, many migrated toward, not away, from white settlements, fighting to expel tribes in direct contact with traders. Matters changed after 1700 with the Dutch out of the picture and France marginalized; Britain dominated seaborne commerce, commodity prices rose, African slaves poured in and Parliament began an intense, but unsuccessful, effort to convert the fractious colonies into a dependable revenue stream. Once land ownership—a mystery to Native Americans—and agriculture became the dominant source of profit, most Americans wanted Indians out of the way. Richter emphasizes that Europeans often treated each other as nastily as they treated other cultures. An astute, thoroughly enjoyable mixture of political, economic and social history that culminates in a turbulent 18th-century North America whose people did not consider themselves on the verge of revolution but knew that things were not right.

 

Pub Date: April 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-674-05580-3

Page Count: 370

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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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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