Nevertheless, this is a captivating portrait of the struggle between labor and capital during a formative period in the...



One of the most influential Americans you never heard of rides the crest of a labor uprising in Gilded Age New York City.

Between 1877 and 1879, Henry George (1839-1897), a self-educated printer, wrote a lengthy book entitled Progress and Poverty, which became the bestselling book on political economy in the 19th century. George grappled with the question of why the century's explosion of productivity was not bringing widespread prosperity but instead a growing gap between rich and poor. The specifics of his theories are less important than his challenge to the prevailing social Darwinist orthodoxy that poverty was the fault of the poor, rights of ownership and contract were sacrosanct, and government should leave business to its own devices. George's contention that poverty was in large measure the result of misguided public policy and that government should regulate business in defense of traditional American values paved the way for the progressive movement of the next century. It also helped inspire a wave of labor union activism that saw George run for mayor of New York City in 1886 atop a workers’ party. He bested a young Theodore Roosevelt but lost to the Tammany candidate. O'Donnell (History/Holy Cross; 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About Irish American History, 2006, etc.) ably illuminates the rise and collapse of local labor unions in the 1870s and ’80s, fueled by the empowering arguments of George and a number of contemporaries. However, George focused intently on land monopoly, and O'Donnell never fully clarifies how his reforms were intended to work or why, apart from George's fiery pro-union rhetoric, urban workers found his program compelling. While one might expect the period's "crisis of inequality" to resonate with similar current concerns, the circumstances of the eras are so different that the author does not attempt to draw explicit links between the two.

Nevertheless, this is a captivating portrait of the struggle between labor and capital during a formative period in the quest for workers' rights.

Pub Date: June 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-231-12000-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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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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