A painstakingly detailed account of the development of capitalist institutions and practices in Europe from the 11th to the 15th centuries by a French historian. Favier’s story is in many ways a heroic one. He praises those who in any period are determined to extend the limits of what is imaginable. This would seem to be his view of the great medieval trading families of Europe, who over the course of several centuries transformed themselves from, as he puts it, “dusty-footed merchants” to a dominant economic and political force. At the same time, there is little that is heroic here; after all, the driving force for most of the merchants was simply to make the most profit with the least risk. To do so they had to be willing to confront, or manipulate, or coopt, both religious and secular authorities. New ways of doing business had to be imagined; new methods of exchange, accounting, payment, and raising capital had to be devised. If at the end of the 15th century the capitalist class, as, say, Ricardo or Marx had imagined it, had not yet emerged, the tools it would use to rule and define the world were, Favier concludes, firmly in place. Favier’s work is most of value in the detail he provides. This is not grand narrative, but a careful historical investigation of precisely how, for instance, the merchants of Genoa kept their accounts or of how the credit systems they devised to protect themselves from uncertain royal currency systems worked. This is not, however, a work for the faint-hearted; a whole chapter on the various types of coins in circulation in Europe, their comparative worth, and how this worth fluctuated is not everyone’s idea of fascinating reading. Still, with a bit of forbearance, the details do accumulate into a worthwhile tale of the origins of the modern economic world. Not for everyone, but an impressive historical achievement.

Pub Date: June 15, 1998

ISBN: 0-8419-1232-7

Page Count: 375

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1998

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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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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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