Competent, but of limited interest.



A serviceable examination of women’s contributions to maritime history.

Faithful sweethearts and willing paramours on the docks, occasional helpmeets at the mast: Cordingly (Under the Black Flag, 1996), a former curator at England’s National Maritime Museum, portrays a wide range of characters who demonstrate that the sailor’s life in the age of sail was not the exclusive province of men—hardly a revolutionary finding, as last year’s works by Joan Druett (She Captains) and David W. Shaw (Flying Cloud) attest. Among that cast of characters are numerous prostitutes, whose careers Cordingly examines with a sociologist’s eye for statistical commonalities (of 14,790 London prostitutes interviewed while in jail, he notes, “8,001 were domestic servants, 2,667 were needlewomen, 1,617 were trade girls who worked in factories, 1,050 were barmaids, and the rest were street sellers, governesses, or dancers, or had no other job”). More exalted in his account are the loyal wives who labored to free their sailor spouses from pressgangs or the brig, the impoverished partners of ill-paid junior officers, and the occasional admiral’s wife, who had to manage “splendid houses and country estates” single-handedly while their husbands were out plundering and conquering on the high seas. While noting how important these women were to maintaining morale and household, Cordingly questions the extent of women’s presence out on the waves, arguing that accounts of women disguised as men in shipboard service were mostly fictitious, and lurid tales of women pirates were often mere fantasies—though, in both instances, with some basis in fact.

Competent, but of limited interest.

Pub Date: March 2, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-50041-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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