A quirky but always delightful social history that will convince most readers that social revolutions have been happening...



Most observers agree that the 20th century saw dazzling changes: the automobile, airplane, atom bomb, antibiotics, computers, space travel, the internet, and hundreds of other amazing advancements. What century can match that? Every one since 1000, responds veteran British social historian Mortimer, and he makes a convincing case.

Following his format of The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England (2013), the author rewinds the clock for a fascinating, century-by-century Eurocentric argument that stuff more world-shaking than cellphones has been happening for a millennium. In much of the 11th century, the Holy Roman Emperor had the power to appoint and remove popes. By 1100, the papacy was an elected position, and Christendom dominated Europe. A powerful church supported powerful monarchs, whose armies finally drove off raiding Vikings, Magyars, and Mongols. Violence diminished, the population prospered, and cities expanded. By 1200, medieval Europe was enjoying a renaissance. Famine and plague devastated the continent after 1300, but an even bigger renaissance followed. The humanism movement, which glorified individual achievement, produced an explosion of art and science but also, for the first time, diaries and personal letters. By 1800, almost everyone had enough to eat, in itself a unique development. Mortimer’s chapters on the 19th and 20th centuries are lengthy and familiar but contain a few jolts. The author emphasizes that revolutions have a terrible record in promoting justice. Single-issue crusades—e.g., anti-slavery, women’s rights, civil rights, the eight-hour workday—do much better. Throughout, Mortimer focuses on changes that affected everyone. Thus, the revolution of printing didn’t fully catch on in 1450 with the invention of the printing press (early books were expensive and in Latin) but rather with the avalanche of cheap, vernacular Bibles a century later.

A quirky but always delightful social history that will convince most readers that social revolutions have been happening for a long time.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68177-243-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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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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Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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