A plainspoken history book demonstrating subtleties galore.

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THE MONROE DOCTRINE

EMPIRE AND NATION IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY AMERICA

A British scholar untangles one of the most infamous pieces of American foreign-policy legislation.

Sexton (American History/Corpus Christi Coll., Univ. of Oxford; Debtor Diplomacy: Finance and American Foreign Relations in the Civil War Era, 1837–1873, 2005, etc.) demonstrates the haphazard formulation of what has become known as the Monroe Doctrine (1823), and examines how its interpretations altered during the next 100 years, as the once-weak United States became a global power. Fearful that Spain might exert hegemony on the American continent through military might, President James Monroe, in a message to the U.S. Congress, stated that his country would consider any intervention by European nations as a threat. Sexton claims that what seemed like a straightforward message to foreign nations actually came across as both ambiguous and paradoxical, a fusion of anti-colonialism and interventionism. Monroe lacked a reasonable plan for halting European expansion in the Americas. Furthermore, the president remained silent on whether the doctrine would constrain the United States from its own expansion plans within the Americas and abroad. Disagreements about the Monroe Doctrine became especially poignant during the Civil War, as the North and the South invoked the iconic statement to suggest either the end, or expansion, of slavery around the world. Partisan politics extending beyond anti-slavery and pro-slavery camps placed marks on the doctrine, as politicians and diplomats twisted the original tenets for ideological purposes. By the time Theodore Roosevelt became president in the early 1900s, he had altered the Monroe Doctrine so that it served as a rationale to intervene anywhere around the globe. Woodrow Wilson thought of it as an instrument of peace, but U.S. participation in European affairs during World War I undermined a non-interventionist philosophy.

A plainspoken history book demonstrating subtleties galore.

Pub Date: March 22, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8090-7191-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2010

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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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