Ably explored and told, The Prisoners of Cabrera will be of considerable interest to students of the Napoleonic era and of...




Able were they ere they saw Cabrera: a fascinating exploration of an all-but-forgotten footnote in French history.

Though books devoted to Napoleon Bonaparte make up a vast library—it’s been said that only Jesus and Hitler have earned more ink—few explore the bloody campaigns waged in Spain and Portugal. Canadian historian Smith examines the waning days of the French attempt to seize Iberia, when the Spanish government quit the Bonapartist cause and, in essence, put its forces under British command. Most of the defeated Napoleonic army was allowed to return on parole to France, but, at British orders, 12,000 troops who had surrendered to the Spanish after the Battle of Bailen were packed off to a desolate island off the coast of Majorca and abandoned to live as “Gallic Robinson Crusoes.” Many thousands of them died. Others formed guerrilla bands and plotted elaborate plans for escape that, with one or two exceptions, failed. Smith looks in particular at one effort by members of the elite Imperial Guard to build a boat out of scrap and odd materials, some supplied by crewmen from an English brigantine “in a clandestine gesture of sympathy for the exiles.” Still others went off to live as hermits with the wild goats in the hills. Finally returned to France after five years, many of the surviving prisoners experienced what would today be classified as post-traumatic stress disorder, “manifested in anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance, or similar complaints.” Scarcely any of them are known to history, and the whole Cabrera incident, Smith points out, was reduced to a single paragraph in a standard British history of the war—which lay the entire blame on the Spanish government for its “indefensible treatment” of the French prisoners.

Ably explored and told, The Prisoners of Cabrera will be of considerable interest to students of the Napoleonic era and of issues of military justice.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2001

ISBN: 1-56858-212-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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