A sturdy but narrowly focused tale of American history.



A family’s history reveals the roots of America’s “capitalist ethos.”

Drawing on abundant archival sources, Stout (American Religious History/Yale Univ.; Upon the Altar of the Nation: A Moral History of the Civil War, 2006, etc.) presents a detailed history of the fortunes and aspirations of a single American family, the Andersons of Kentucky, from 1750 to 1888, arguing that land ownership was central to their lives as participants in “the American experiment in republican capitalism.” The Andersons’ quest for land forms a recurring theme, as do the worry and stress that land ownership entails. “Land was the lifeblood of the young nation,” writes the author, “but land was jeopardized by the markets and was the source of unending anxiety.” The clan’s patriarch was Richard Clough Anderson Sr., who in 1783 was elected to the post of surveyor general, “literally measuring America inch by inch and rod by rod to impose order on the land and make possible prosperity for its ambitious citizens.” Those citizens were white males whose land lust entailed the removal of Native nations by force and whose prosperity depended on slaves. The Andersons were slave owners, and though Stout maintains that their “intimate association with land, property, and anxiety” was “not exceptional for their time,” they represent “a broad swath of movers and shakers” rather than ordinary citizens and therefore limit the reach of Stout’s generalizations. With little documentation for women’s lives, the narrative mainly chronicles the Anderson men’s political affiliations, familial squabbles, participation in the Civil War, and responses to a succession of financial panics. Clough’s namesake, Richard Jr., beset by money troubles, risked his family’s well-being to pay off debts and acquire land by taking a well-paid consulship in Colombia; his decision to move to a country with poor medical treatment led to his wife’s death and, eventually, his own. After Richard died, his brother, a Harvard-educated lawyer, became the new patriarch and a wealthy Ohio landowner.

A sturdy but narrowly focused tale of American history.

Pub Date: Nov. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-465-09898-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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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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