A wide-ranging, utterly absorbing history of our times. With an ironic nod to political correctness, Reynolds (Rich Relations: The American Occupation of Britain, 1942—1945, 1994, etc.) owns up to being a —white, middle-aged Englishman— whose —limited and personal view— of the recent past is open to argument. It would take a careful scholar, however, to gainsay Reynolds, a Cambridge University historian who packs an astonishing wealth of information into this whopper of a book. Moving easily from fact to fact, Reynolds looks into the political upheavals, demographic transformations, technological advances, and cultural forces that have shaped the world since the end of WWII—and shaped it, he reckons, in ways that press the planet away from unity and amity, toward ever-increasing fragmentation. The reigning divisions of the last few decades, Reynolds writes, are many. One is the widening not of the East-West division of old, but of the North-South moieties of rich and poor nations. Another division, more pervasive still, is what Reynolds describes as —the attempt to relate territorial boundaries to global and religious groupings——to make states and nations one and the same thing. Yet another is the insistence of human beings on differentiating themselves by matters of belief, religion, skin color, and class. Through it all, Reynolds is a jet-setter of a narrator, taking readers from the Kremlin to Zimbabwe, from the Great Wall to Antarctica, to chase down examples of human brilliance (the development of the standardized transoceanic shipping container, to name one oddly fascinating case) and human folly (the rise of so-called creation science in the face of the new physics and cosmology and the old logic). The past half century has been volatile, unpredictable, bloody, and unsettling. Reynolds’s account attempts to make sense of it all—and does so exceedingly well.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-393-04821-7

Page Count: 860

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 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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