Scholarly, understated, massive history of the Crown Colony, from Britisher and former international banker Welsh. Hong Kong has been a source of embarrassment to both Britain and China from the outset. British Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston sacked the envoy who negotiated the island's cession- -and, ever since, the colony has irritated Whitehall with scandals over drugs, prostitution, corruption, and, now, this dreary hand- over business. On China's end, it's the principle of the thing, a scar symbolic of a great wound. Here, Welsh covers events large and small. In 1854, he tells us, Hong Kong Governor Sir John Bowring precipitated a second Anglo-Chinese war, and, through his efforts, China was opened up to European travelers, missionaries, and traders. In 1894, plague struck, causing Governor Sir William Robinson to observe that the Chinese died ``like sheep,'' since they were ``educated to unsanitary habits...accustomed from infancy to herd together''—but Hong Kong survived to see the British accept a 99-year lease in 1898. The 1960's were the golden years of economic freedom, but, even though the populace prospered, hundreds of thousands suffered wretched temporary living conditions—such as sleeping in cardboard boxes near the Star Ferry terminal and even in wire cages at Mongkok. The events of 1972—when Hong Kong's future was decided by Britain and China—are still shrouded in a secrecy that Welsh doesn't dispel, stating only that some feel that if Britain hadn't approached China, China would have let matters lie because Hong Kong was too valuable a trading partner to lose. Welsh doesn't bring history to life so much as recite details, and even the fascinating characters and events that stipple his pages don't add much color. (For a livelier look at the island- colony, see Gerald Segal's The Fate of Hong Kong, p. 921.) (Sixteen pages of b&w illustrations—not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1993

ISBN: 1-56836-002-9

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Kodansha

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1993

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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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