Readers accustomed to Hollywood’s portrayal of people in earlier times (just like us, except for the funny clothes) are in...

THE TIME TRAVELER'S GUIDE TO ELIZABETHAN ENGLAND

Having made a splash with The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England (2009), popular British historian Mortimer delivers an equally authoritative, amusing bottoms-up account of life during Queen Elizabeth’s 1558-1603 reign.

The average Elizabethan paid little attention to politics but a great deal to domestic technology. Thus, bricks and clear glass became cheaper. Cheap bricks meant cheap chimneys. Without a chimney, smoke can only escape through the roof, making upper stories impossible, so multistory buildings spread throughout Elizabethan towns. Formerly available only to the rich, glass windows began appearing widely. Elizabethan professions could be as professional as today’s but not always: An Elizabethan lawyer would deliver useful legal counsel, but you would be unwise to follow the advice of an Elizabethan physician. Preparing a hot bath was a major undertaking. In any case, bathing was considered a health risk. This did not mean that Elizabethans ignored personal cleanliness, but a time traveler would have noticed the general body odor. However, even Elizabethans disliked the smell of excrement. Privies took care of this in the country; the rich built expensive cesspits and even primitive water closets, but the urban poor had few options, so cities stank. We understand the English of Shakespeare’s time with a modest effort, although many words have changed meaning. Ecstasy meant insanity. Mean meant impoverished (“of mean parentage” didn’t mean child abuse but poverty). “Puke” was a bluish-black color.

Readers accustomed to Hollywood’s portrayal of people in earlier times (just like us, except for the funny clothes) are in for a jolt as they encounter plenty of new, often unsettling, occasionally gruesome but always entertaining information.

Pub Date: July 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-670-02607-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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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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