Weber (European History/UCLA; France, Fin de Siäcle, 1986; etc.) skillfully paints a somber portrait of France in decline. War and the threat of war shaped France in the 1930s. Though the nominal victor of WW I, France never recovered from losing over a million dead and over three million wounded. About the inert Depression-era French economy, Weber reflects that ``the spirit of Thomas Malthus ruled over the land.'' With a less dynamic economy and a significantly lower rate of postwar population growth than Germany, Italy, or Britain, France produced a succession of leaders, such as Edouard Daladier and LÇon Blum, who reflected the country itself: conservative, backward-looking, irresolute, and determined to avoid another war with Germany at all costs. Weber notes the familiar diplomatic, economic, and political indicators of France's decline in the 1930s—its fractured politics, its failure to oppose a resurgent Germany, the repudiation of its American debt from WW I, its fatal pacifism in the face of German aggression. But he focuses primarily on social and cultural history. A significant drop in the servant population, greater urbanization of what had been a predominantly agrarian economy, the falling value of the franc, and labor legislation all had transformative effects. Nonetheless, some things changed very slowly. The emancipation of women, Weber notes, was ``slow, patchy, and indirect,'' with women receiving the ability to take legal action without their husbands' consent only in 1938, and the vote in 1945. With France's decline as a great power, people became preoccupied with sports, films, and religion (Weber describes the religious revival of the period as the ``Indian Summer'' of French Catholicism); xenophobia and anti-Semitism became more pronounced as economic conditions worsened. In the end, the hollow years gave way to a war for which France was unprepared, and to years of occupation. An eloquent and thoughtful look at France in the interwar period.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 1994

ISBN: 0-393-03671-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 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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