Bitter lessons from the past unearthed and expertly reexamined.

HOW THE WEST STOLE DEMOCRACY FROM THE ARABS

THE ARAB CONGRESS OF 1920, THE DESTRUCTION OF THE SYRIAN STATE, AND THE RISE OF ANTI-LIBERAL ISLAMISM

An impassioned argument that the Arabs of Greater Syria who fought for the Allies in World War I, deeply committed to the Wilsonian notion of self-determination, were robbed of their chance at democracy.

Thompson, the Mohamed S. Farsi Chair of Islamic Peace at American University, claims that this tragic story of Syria’s occupation by England and France—and their deliberate effort to “destroy the Syrian Arab state” just as it was forming its democratic constitution—has “never before been told in English.” She notes that only four books have covered the Syrian Arab Congress and its drafting of a “147-article constitution modeled on its Ottoman predecessor with modifications inspired by American federalism and checks and balances”—a document created within the slim window between the declaration of Syrian independence and the imperial partition of Syria as agreed upon at the San Remo Conference in April 1920. Beginning in 1916, Prince Faisal, the championed leader of the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire who was famously advised by T.E. Lawrence, defied his father in advocating for Syrian independence. Yet with Woodrow Wilson incapacitated by stroke, English and French leaders, using the League of Nations system of mandates as pretext, declared Faisal’s government illegal. The author clearly demonstrates how they planned the occupation and partition just as a remarkable coalition of liberals and religious leaders agreed on a system protecting minorities to “balance freedom and rule of law.” In a book sure to interest students of Middle Eastern history, particularly in the 20th century, Thompson fashions an original, authoritative study, laying out the process of the “theft” of Syrian democracy. “The history of postwar Syria,” she writes, “reveals that the tragedy of the 1919 [Paris Peace] conference was due not to the oversight of a few exhausted and old-fashioned statesmen, but rather to their vigorous effort to expand a colonial and racialist world system.”

Bitter lessons from the past unearthed and expertly reexamined.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8021-4820-9

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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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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