A sturdy history of an insular people that will appeal mostly to students of early American history.

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THEY KNEW THEY WERE PILGRIMS

PLYMOUTH COLONY AND THE CONTEST FOR AMERICAN LIBERTY

A professor of religious studies argues for reinstating the Plymouth Pilgrims at the forefront of the fight for "liberty of conscience" on American soil.

Usually relegated to the margins of academic history as the "smallest, weakest, and least important of the English colonies" compared to John Winthrop's Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, notes Turner, forged the first sense of American identity and mythology in terms of a participatory political framework and fierce commitment to liberty. But what did the concept of “liberty” mean to them? Separating from what they perceived as the corruption of the Church of England—from the "bondage" to "monarchs, magistrates, bishops, or synods"—they were determined to form their own congregations and elect their own officers. They were continually hounded for these desires, especially under the new king, James VI of Scotland, who ascended to the throne in 1603 and was unsympathetic to puritanism because he associated it with "limits on royal prerogatives." Moving to the Netherlands did not prove satisfactory in the long run. Wherever they went, notes Turner, the author of Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet (2012), “English separatists were disunity specialists.” Making the arduous journey across the Atlantic Ocean, however, was an act of pure faith, and their “Mayflower compact” was an attempt at establishing “a civic body politic” that did not hinge on church membership. On one hand, they were able to fashion an important defense treaty with Massasoit, which benefited both the settlers and Wampanoags and established the settlers as “the foremost military power in the region.” On the other hand, church attendance was compulsory, and the colony’s leaders banished anyone who wanted to worship by other principles, such as the Quakers. Ultimately, Turner concludes, the “Colony leaders took it for granted that some groups of people were entitled to more liberties than others.” Though rather dry, the author’s study offers original scholarship that academics will appreciate.

A sturdy history of an insular people that will appeal mostly to students of early American history.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-22550-1

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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 clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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