A lively and illuminating revisionist history.

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THE MAKING OF AMERICA BY ENGLAND'S MERCHANT ADVENTURERS

A search for profits and new markets spurred England’s exploration of North America.

Business journalists and historians Butman (Breaking Out: How to Build Influence in a World of Competing Ideas, 2013, etc.) and Targett argue persuasively that the myth of America’s founding narrative, centered on the Pilgrims’ quest for religious freedom, ignores the reality of England’s relationship to the New World in the 16th century. For the English, settlements offered both a market for manufactured goods—especially woolen cloth, on which the economy was largely based—and a source of coveted raw materials, notably fur, wood, and precious metals. America’s origin was not “a fable of moral rectitude and national goodness” but rather the culmination of decades of business deals. Jobs, the authors reveal, were the Pilgrims’ “key concern.” Drawing on considerable primary sources, the authors chronicle the investment groups—beginning with the Company of Merchant Adventurers, in 1552—who gathered shareholders to fund expeditions to foster trade. The Merchant Adventurers at first focused on trade with Russia and finding a northern route to China. That focus shifted after explorers Martin Frobisher and Francis Drake returned to England in the late 1570s with reports of vast western lands and a possible route to China through the Northwest Passage. In a nation mired in debt and economic problems, the lure of land grants appealed to investors large and small: merchants, artisans, shopkeepers, and soldiers. Nevertheless, with most investors contributing from 5 to 50 pounds, it proved difficult to fund a fleet of several ships and hundreds of men. Storms, disease, navigation errors, and rivalries undermined many voyages. Still, reports of successes “gave England a new way to think about itself—no longer as a sluggish and neglectful nation but as a bold seafaring people.” The authors give ample evidence that “the driving commercial impulse, the spirit of enterprise” underlay the creation of America. As John Smith wrote in 1616, no “other motive than wealth will ever erect there a Commonweale.”

A lively and illuminating revisionist history.

Pub Date: March 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-30788-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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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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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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