Blanchard’s style, broad knowledge of France, and scholarly research in the legion’s archives make this a detailed and...




The history and philosophy of the French Foreign Legion.

The legion was formed in 1831 as an all-volunteer corps of the French Army with a special right to hire foreign-born recruits; French citizens were not accepted until 1881. Upon acceptance, the legion became their only country, and they were comprised of outcasts, younger scions of noble families, debt-ridden gamblers, and those escaping scandal, jail, or the noose. Upon entering training, one only need provide a name and proof of physical ability. The training was brutal, pushing men to the limits of human endurance. The legion soldiers were essential in the building of France’s colonial empire, with conquests across Algeria, Indochina, Madagascar, Morocco, and elsewhere. Blanchard (French Studies/Swarthmore Coll.; Éminence: Cardinal Richelieu and the Rise of France, 2011) eases readers’ confusion about foreign cities and geographic regions by following the career of Gen. Louis Hubert Lyautey (1854-1934), who fought in all the major colonies. His use of and reliance on the Foreign Legion illustrate how perfectly they grew into such a significant force. They were the troop of the last stand, never questioning and never hesitating to answer the call; loyalty and solidarity were the most important assets. As the author follows Lyautey through Algerian pacification and some of the most tumultuous episodes in legion history in Indochina, we see France’s steady progression of colonialism. Like many colonial powers, the French civilized the natives while maintaining a policy of Code de l'indigénat, denying them equal rights with their conquerors. Men of the legion, Lyautey included, suffered from what was termed le cafard, a deep depression resulting from long terms of solitude in remote areas, often ending in suicide. The author deftly captures the romance as well as the horror of life in the French Foreign Legion.

Blanchard’s style, broad knowledge of France, and scholarly research in the legion’s archives make this a detailed and fascinating book of French history.

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8027-4387-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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?

No Comments Yet


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?

No Comments Yet