The scope of the subject matter is impressive, and the execution is outstanding.

THE SUMMIT

BRETTON WOODS, 1944: J.M. KEYNES AND THE RESHAPING OF THE GLOBAL ECONOMY

Sky News economics editor Conway (50 Economics Ideas You Really Need to Know, 2009) covers the inside story of what really happened during the 22 days of the conference at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, in July 1944.

The author provides a compelling portrait of the event, which took place on the international stage of big-power geopolitics and was driven by long-range changes in monetary relations. It was at Bretton Woods that the dollar became the world's senior reserve currency, replacing the debt-ridden British pound and the collapsed gold reserve system discredited during the Great Depression. Conway also chronicles the rise of the United States as the world's leading creditor from before World War I, and he outlines how that trajectory affected the proceedings, counterpointing the disastrous attempts of debtors like the British and French to revive the prewar gold standard. The author also extends the narrative to the present by way of President Richard Nixon's 1971 decision to take the dollar off the gold standard. Conway takes issue with earlier, narrowly focused economic treatments and the view that international monetary economics is “esoteric and irrelevant.” The author draws on previously untapped material from participants, (e.g., George Bolton of the Bank of England), including personal recollections, accounts and diaries, and archives from Russia. Conway documents the rich relationship between John Maynard Keynes and Harry Dexter White. Competition between the two was long-standing—White was determined to secure hegemony for the dollar after the war, while Keynes attempted to protect the U.K.'s finances from the effects of its indebtedness to colonies like India and South Africa—and Conway presents the relationship intriguingly throughout. Additionally, he portrays how Keynes' incredible arrogance and rudeness undermined his effectiveness with American policymakers.

The scope of the subject matter is impressive, and the execution is outstanding.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-1605986814

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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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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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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