Dark, heavy-going and minutely researched—not for everyone, but history buffs will enjoy it.




A weird early-17th-century occurrence of “lithobolia, or the stone-throwing devil” in a religiously fraught area of coastal New Hampshire ten years before Massachusetts was gripped by witchcraft panic.

Baker (History/Salem State Coll.), who has done his research almost too thoroughly, frequently gets overwhelmed by an abundance of material as he surveys the many instances of alleged witchcraft that erupted in colonial America. Faced with such strange events as showers of stones coming out of nowhere, people pointed accusing fingers at suspicious neighbors, usually widows or women without men to protect them. In the case of Great Island, N.H., the tavern of prosperous Quaker landowner George Walton was considerably damaged by unexplained barrages of stones over the course of several months in 1682. Litigious Walton promptly accused his elderly neighbor Hannah Jones, with whom he had been involved in a bitter 30-year property dispute. He called her a witch, while she in turn dubbed him a wizard. Long-simmering tensions emerged. Walton ran an unruly tavern and attracted riffraff on the small island, where land was at a premium and owners guarded their plots jealously. He treated his servants badly. He had joined the Quakers, a radical minority excoriated by other Protestant sects, and even held meetings at his tavern. Walton had close ties to the royalist Mason family, which aimed to wrest control of New Hampshire from the colonists’ control. Worst of all, he was against the town’s desire to form a parish separate from Portsmouth and hire its own minister. “This led some devout Great Islanders to take out their frustration on the Waltons, the family whose presence seemed to mock their desire to maintain a godly community,” Baker asserts. He studies copycat cases in the surrounding regions and overall does a fine job of bringing to life a little-known aspect of the tumultuous Puritan era, even if all the detail occasionally makes it a somewhat bewildering.

Dark, heavy-going and minutely researched—not for everyone, but history buffs will enjoy it.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-4039-7207-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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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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