A densely researched and comprehensive portrait, enhanced by fascinating archival paintings and photos.




National Marine Fisheries Service analyst Dolin compellingly examines whaling’s importance to America’s early growth and wealth.

The author traces the industry’s development, from enthusiastic whale hunting by eighth-century Basques to the introduction of an array of whale products throughout Europe by the 17th century. The first American settlers saw Indians cutting up dead pilot whales stranded on the beach and soon tried “drift” whaling themselves. Favorably located near migratory routes, Nantucket took the lead first in drift whaling and then in shore whaling, rowing out to harpoon leviathans swimming near the coast. The island’s hardworking, business-minded Quaker settlers, relying on the local Indians as an abundant source of skilled labor, launched deep-sea hunting for the sperm whale and its three lucrative components: oil for clean lighting, spermaceti for medicinal elixirs and candles, ambergris as a fixative for perfumes. (Right whales provided another commercially successful product: baleen for corset stays.) Dolin takes the reader through the facets of sperm-whale hunting, detailing the creature’s actual physical makeup and the nasty life aboard whaling vessels, then moving on to describe the dangerous chase for an elusive, troublesome prey, followed by the dismemberment and processing of its carcass. Various American wars dealt disastrously with the whaling industry, though it recovered after 1812 and, by the early 1850s, had entered the golden age Herman Melville depicted in Moby-Dick. In 1853, the top year of production, ships from New Bedford, New London and Sag Harbor killed an astounding 8,000 whales to produce 103,000 barrels of sperm oil and 5.7 million pounds of baleen. But the discovery of crude oil in Pennsylvania during the late 1850s produced a flood of cheap kerosene that soon supplanted whale oil as the principle source of lamp fuel. Dolin closes with the final voyage of New Bedford’s last whaling ship in 1924.

A densely researched and comprehensive portrait, enhanced by fascinating archival paintings and photos.

Pub Date: July 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-393-06057-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 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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