Renowned traitors are almost always heroes who have gone astray, otherwise what would be the tragedy of the betrayal? In this sense, a revisionist history of Benedict Arnold as ``revolutionary hero'' is not a surprising turn—but it is an edifying one. Martin (History/Univ. of Houston; Men in Rebellion, not reviewed, etc.) unpacks the various myths that have sprung up around Arnold—myths that were designed to recast the hero into the villain—and draws a truer portrait of this misunderstood American archetype. What he uncovers is a bright and ambitious man who miscalculated badly on one very significant act of his life. Born to a respectable family in Norwich, Connecticut, in 1741, Arnold watched helplessly as his father drank away his good family name and modest fortune. Arnold was taken out of school (he had thought himself destined for higher education at Yale) and apprenticed to successful merchants on his mother's side of the family. He did well in business, married advantageously, and was headed for a very comfortable life when duty, and the hope of laurels for the somewhat tarnished Arnold name, sent him into the military. He proved himself an able leader, but in 1780, Arnold rethought his cause and decided that the colonies, which appeared to be losing the war, would be better off appealing favorably to the British after all. He hoped that he would be viewed as a greater hero for recognizing this truth, and that the rest of the rebels would follow his lead. Instead, his defection gave the revolutionary cause a shot in the arm, as well as a villain to burn in effigy—an ironic end to his lifelong quest for respectability. Although Martin can be rather heavy-handed in pressing his central theme that Arnold's concern was to restore his family's reputation, this is still a worthy exposÇ of a truth underlying a cherished American myth. (24 illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 1997

ISBN: 0-8147-5560-7

Page Count: 540

Publisher: New York Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1997

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?


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

Did you like this book?