A useful reference about famous and relatively overlooked figures of English history.

Lives of England's Reigning and Consort Queens

A comprehensive historical work about how royal mistresses, wives and queens influenced and helped shape the future of Britain from the Dark Ages to the present.

Neatly and logically packaged into separate sections, this history of more than 3,000 years of English royalty delves into the little-known and offbeat details about the women on the throne—as well as those near it, and those in the royal beds. Lehman (Lives of England’s Monarchs, 2005, etc.) gives a straightforward summary of each of the 41 monarchs’ reigns, analyzes the importance of the women involved, and discusses the stability and success of the various marriages and liaisons. Religion, mostly bitterness between Catholics and Protestants, dominates the blood-soaked rivalries of the first 1,500 years. Women were fair game to the executioner’s ax, sometimes justifiably but often unjustly; the reign of Henry VIII predictably gets the most pages. The book’s tone is sometimes simplistic, but the narrative keeps the reader’s attention with intriguing details. For example, Richard II and his queen, Anne of Bohemia, brought in the Sumptuary Laws, which dictated how the different social classes could dress; the aim seemed to be to stop the peasants from being upwardly mobile. Queen Caroline, Lehman writes, was the power behind George II’s support of the music of composer George Frideric Handel. The king was so impressed by the “Hallelujah Chorus” in Handel’s “Messiah” during a 1743 performance that he stood up—a tradition that has continued to this day. American Wallis Simpson comes in for her share of scrutiny, with Lehman agreeing with many historians that Simpson was genuinely prepared to end her controversial affair with Edward VIII. The English people hated her, and she returned their feelings with equal measure: “I hate this country and shall hate it to my grave,” she said. However, Lehman doesn’t mention one serious political aspect of the affair: The country and the empire were so absorbed in the scandal that they were distracted from the rise of Nazi Germany.

A useful reference about famous and relatively overlooked figures of English history.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2011

ISBN: 978-1463430566

Page Count: 720

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2013

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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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