General readers will leave better informed but little wiser.



A comprehensive chronicle of the collection and uses of information during the last six centuries.

Prolific historian Black (History/Exeter Univ.; War and Technology, 2013, etc.) sets out to explain how the acquisition and uses of information since the late Middle Ages contributed to the development of cultures around the world and to Western cultural, political and military hegemony. During this period, the nature and perception of information changed as reliance on classical and ecclesiastical authority gave way to a greater respect for empirical facts. Governments needed information primarily for taxation and military purposes, and businesses used it to expand trading opportunities. As more, and timelier, information became available, new uses for it emerged, and new demands as well. For example, in the 20th century, "understanding and addressing social problems and economic issues on an unprecedented scale became of greater importance for governments than heretofore and helped direct their engagement with information gathering.” These developments built on one another, particularly in the West, though Black devotes much attention to tracking similar developments in Asian and Islamic societies as well. Despite these nods to multiculturalism, the author is compelled to admit that advances in information gathering and processing ultimately faltered there, or as he puts it, these "technologies were open to all Westerners but were only slowly or poorly adopted by non-Westerners….The ability to gather, manipulate and deploy information therefore gave the Western nations a distinct and significant strategic advantage." Erudite and prolix, this is a book by an academic for other academics. Clearly the product of exhaustive research, it is a torrent of facts but, ultimately, to no clear purpose. Far more valuable and readable would have been a more selective use of facts to support an overarching thesis, but nothing of the sort ever emerges; it is all trees and no forest.

General readers will leave better informed but little wiser.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-300-16795-5

Page Count: 508

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 2, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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