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NOBLE VOLUNTEERS

THE BRITISH SOLDIERS WHO FOUGHT THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

A detailed and often entertaining history for academics.

An eye-opening account of the redcoats.

Hagist, the managing editor of the Journal of the American Revolution, emphasizes that his subjects are not officers but private soldiers who, unlike sailors in the Royal Navy, were volunteers. Earning 8 pence per day—minus deductions for uniforms and food—it was a subsistence livelihood but secure. Soldiers usually enlisted for life, retiring with a pension when no longer physically able. The British soldier usually receives bad press in popular American histories, often depicted “as little more than a caricature,” as Rick Atkinson notes in the foreword. However, writes Hagist, “contrary to popular misconceptions, few were pressured to join in order to avoid jail or escape poverty.” Some were farm laborers, but most were from the trades—e.g., tailors, barbers, blacksmiths. Their reasons for enlisting were similar to today’s: a search for adventure or to escape an unsatisfactory civilian life. Training was intense, and discipline was often barbaric. Although few complained at the time, there was no shortage of misbehavior, crime, and desertion, but the result was a surprisingly content and skilled army who “were seldom bested on the battlefield, even in the face of much greater numbers.” The author’s research in American and British archives turns up a great deal of technical, statistical, and organizational details as well as personal writings of the large percentage of enlisted men who were literate. Readers will enjoy many revealing stories of soldiering in that distant era, provided they understand that Hagist is accustomed to writing for a scholarly audience. Thus, his chapter on the fate of soldiers at the end of their service is a fine explanation of 18th-century British pension boards, along with examples of soldiers who came before them, but it’s too much for general readers. Entire chapters devoted to housing, pay, and recruiting may discourage those who prefer not to skim.

A detailed and often entertaining history for academics.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59416-349-4

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Westholme Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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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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