Abulafia (Mediterranean History/Cambridge Univ.; The Discovery of Mankind: Atlantic Encounters in the Age of Columbus, 2008, etc.) provides a “history of the Mediterranean Sea, rather than a history of the lands around it.”

In this massive companion piece to The Mediterranean in History (2003), the author looks at the role played by trade, as opposed to physical migration of populations, in diffusing cultures and religion, as well as that of naval warfare and conquest. Abulafia weighs in on the dispute over the origins of the Etruscans who preceded the Romans and built the first cities in Italy. Had they migrated from the east, as Latin writers such as Virgil and Cicero supposed, or were they indigenous to the region? For the author, the important question is “how their distinctive culture came into being in Italy”—the diffusion of objects, standards of taste, religious cults, etc. The author looks at five distinct stages in the culture of the Mediterranean: 22000 to 1000 BCE, when progress was punctuated by a series of natural disasters; 1000 BCE to 600 CE, which encompasses the great cultures of antiquity and the rise of Judaism and Christianity; 600-1350, during which the Roman Empire fell and Islam rose; 1350-1830, dominated by the Ottoman empire and the Crusades; and 1830-2010, featuring the expansion of the British empire whose acquisitions stretched from Gibraltar to Suez in the modern period. Abulafia writes in a popular style with an eye for interesting sidelights on history, such as the backdating of the Trojan War by Homer and Virgil, and quirky asides about modern Mediterranean culture. Whether or not readers agree with the author that the Mediterranean “has played a role in the history of civilization that has far surpassed any other expanse of sea,” this comprehensive, scholarly study contains much food for thought.


Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-19-532334-4

Page Count: 816

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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...


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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