An engrossing history of an obscure incident: the 1823 mass uprising of slaves in the South American British colony of Demerara (present-day Guyana). Da Costa (History/Yale) draws on ample primary sources- -diaries, plantation records, letters, and records of legal proceedings, including complaints of the slaves themselves—to draw a riveting picture of the Demerara colony: Approximately 5,000 free people, half white and half black, lived among 77,000 slaves who worked the colony's 60 plantations. On August 17, 1823, 9,000- 12,000 slaves, inspired by the recent French, American, and Haitian revolutions, surrounded plantation houses throughout the colony, smashing windows, menacing masters and overseers, and seizing weapons. The uprising provoked a savage reaction from colonial authorities: In over three days of fighting, more than 255 slaves were killed, while during the few days the slaves held power only three whites were slain. Da Costa views the crisis from multiple viewpoints (of course, accounts by whites dominate the record): Planters who defended the colony's inhumane economic system blamed English missionaries for fueling the rebellion, while the missionaries, who decried the slave system, condemned the oppressiveness of the masters. Da Costa describes the career and political trial of John Smith, a missionary who defended and identified with the slaves: Smith was condemned to death for inciting the rebellion, then died in prison while his appeal for clemency was pending. In the end, while Parliament declined to censure the Demerara authorities, the rebellion and the excesses of the planters ``gave a boost to the abolitionist movement'' and hastened the end of slavery in Demerara and elsewhere in the empire. A first-rate account of a little-known episode that had large consequences for Britain and for the world: careful, professional scholarship married to a well-told story.

Pub Date: May 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-19-508298-2

Page Count: 408

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1994

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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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