An invaluable history of the French Revolution and its repercussions through the years.

THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

FROM ENLIGHTENMENT TO TYRANNY

What we don’t know about the French Revolution could fill a book; Davidson (Voltaire: A Life, 2010, etc.) has done just that—in spades.

In the 1780s, Louis XVI was running out of funds. His usual sources turned him down so he called the Estates General for the first time in nearly 200 years. The king allowed the Third Estate to have twice the delegates, as they represented more population. As such, those citizens finally found their voice and decried the separate meeting of the orders. Eventually, many clergy and some nobles joined them. No one notified the delegates that a meeting with the king was postponed, and this produced the Tennis Court Oath. As the king acceded to the Third Estate, the absolute monarchy simply fell over dead. The first three years of the revolution were reasonably peaceful, as most attempted to solve the eternal issues of bread and money. The dismissal of the cabinet led to anarchy, while the newly formed militia broke into the Bastille to retrieve arms. The National Assembly eliminated royal pensions, tax exemptions, and feudal privileges. With the end of class distinction, the ancient regime collapsed on Aug. 4, 1789. The assembly passed the Declaration of the Rights of Man, defined the nation as the source of sovereignty, overhauled local governments, instituted tax reform, and nationalized the church, with particularly devastating effect. The mob power unleashed by crowd hysteria over hunger and unemployment enabled the working class to assume power, leading to Robespierre and the reign of terror. Ultimately, the Revolution was a series of battles that continued until Napoleon took over. The revolutionaries had no plan or final destination; after 200 years, they’re still trying to get the Constitution right. Throughout the book, the author fills in the gaps in our knowledge about the revolution and its aftermath, and the helpful maps, graphics, and a timeline further illuminate the narrative.

An invaluable history of the French Revolution and its repercussions through the years.

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68177-250-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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