BATTLE CRY OF FREEDOM

THE CIVIL WAR ERA (OXFORD HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES)

With this major work, McPherson (History/Princeton; Ordeal by Fire) cements his reputation as one of the finest Civil War historians. The volume begins with a deft description of the ragged American army trudging into Mexico City in 1847. From there, the narrative speeds through 28 chapters that draw a precise and lively picture of what America and Americans were like in mid-19th century. McPherson delineates the issues that galvanized and divided the American public from the end of the Mexican War in 1848 to the opening of the Civil War in 1861, providing thorough explanations of the pre-war period's gravest crises—the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the prairie guerrilla war it started; the national clamor over the Dred Scott case; anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant violence and the brief life of the nativist Know-Nothing Party; and the panic over John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859. And McPherson's coverage of the Civil War is just as strong and clear. The author also addresses arguments about the root origins or that war and pinpoints major causes: hatred of slavery and blind regional prejudice. What distinguishes McPherson's work is his fluid writing style and his able use of anecdote and human interest to flesh out his portrait of the times. Social history and verified gossip abound and are used to good effect: the 1851 racing victory of the US yacht America over 14 British vessels in the Royal Yacht Squadron became the talk of the sporting world and, also, heralded this nation's emergence as an industrial and technological force; talk of U.S. Grant's drinking problem and how he struggled to control it is shown to have shaped the general's personality in many positive ways; etc. McPherson also works in many bits of trivia that, while they may not be of historical import, make his treatment nearly effortless reading. This new volume in the Oxford History of the United States series should become a standard general history of the Civil War period—it's one that will stand up for years to come.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1988

ISBN: 019516895X

Page Count: 947

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1988

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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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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