1898

THE BIRTH OF THE AMERICAN CENTURY

A narrative history of the watershed year of 1898, when a previously self-absorbed, isolationist America suddenly turned outward, becoming an exuberant player on the world stage. Traxel (An American Saga, 1980) argues persuasively that during 1898 the US —advanced from being viewed as a country of sharp-dealing businessmen with a second-rate military to acknowledgment as a respected member of the imperialists’ club.— This was in large part because of America’s swift victory in the Spanish-American War. There were, however, other elements at work. By 1898 a number of industries began to turn outward in search of new, large markets for American goods. American technology, after a period of experimentation following the Civil War, had hit its stride. The work of Edison, Ford, Taylor (the father of assembly-line efficiency), Armour, Westinghouse, and many others profoundly (and permanently) altered American life. Admiral Mahan’s persuasive study, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, published in 1890, reshaped American thinking about the military, arguing that a great nation needed foreign markets, and that the competition for such markets would be won by the nation with the most efficient naval power. These were matters well understood by Theodore Roosevelt, the first —modern— president and the man who spurred the creation of a new American fleet. At the same time, on the homefront, many women were leaving the security (and restrictions) of the home to pursue higher education, jobs, and, of course, the right to vote. Unions, their growth spurred by often atrocious working conditions, found themselves in pitched battles with corporations. At the same time reformers (such as Jane Addams in Chicago), achieved a new visibility in American life, initiating crusades for better housing, better education, and job safety. A lively survey, rich with anecdotal material, of the year that witnessed the combustion of the forces that were to make America a dominant power. (8 photos, not seen)

Pub Date: May 14, 1998

ISBN: 0-679-45467-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1998

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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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