Seward is a good author to turn to for ease in reading history; his writing style is quick, vibrant and delightfully pithy...

THE DEMON'S BROOD

A HISTORY OF THE PLANTAGENET DYNASTY

Historian Seward (The Last White Rose: The Secret Wars of the Tudors, 2014) again serves up a neat, clear view of an English dynasty—this time, the Plantagenets.

Turning to as many contemporary sources as possible, the author in particular initially quotes the chronicles of Matthew Paris and Roger of Wendover, monks of St. Albans, a well-placed monastery at the intersection of two of England’s busiest roads, who witnessed history unfolding. The author deftly covers 300 years of English history and more than a dozen kings, noting how, due to a “multicultural world” that is “embarrassed by patriotic history…the Plantagenets have faded from people’s memory.” Readers well-versed in Plantagenet history will delight in the efficient completeness of this narrative. The author covers most of the bases, although a bit more attention might have been paid to Eleanor of Aquitaine, one of history’s strongest women. Seward succinctly chronicles the successes and failures of these kings, from Henry II’s manic energy to Edward II’s complete uselessness to Henry V’s heroic victories over the French. The author also recounts the immense changes that took place in the world during the time period, beginning with Henry II’s accession in 1154 and ending with the great age of exploration that began in 1492, just seven years after the fall of Richard III at Bosworth. During that time, England twice gained and lost vast lands in France, fought the Hundred Years’ War against the same, and alternately subdued and surrendered to the Scots, Irish and Welsh. The bitter civil war between the Lancaster and York families finally ended with Henry Tudor’s ascension and unification of the families.

Seward is a good author to turn to for ease in reading history; his writing style is quick, vibrant and delightfully pithy in its simplicity of phrase.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60598-618-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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