A deft survey by a leading British authority on the period's political, military, and art history. Hale presents the Renaissance as the age in which, first through cartography, the nations of Europe (Britain included) gained an awareness of being, however precariously, a cohesive entity. But he places as much stress on the countries' developing prejudices, antipathies, and insular ``mini-economies'' as on their sense of kinship or alliance. After chapters mapping the ``discovery'' of Europe as an idea, its countries, and its divisions, Hale crosses these borders to discuss ``transformations,'' ``transmissions,'' and ``migrating styles'' of art and culture. His examples of local adaptations of Italian works are particularly telling, e.g., a Polish translator of Castiglione's Courtier removed the women from its dialogues, sure that his readers would doubt ``their participation in such a cultivated debate.'' Hale, while furnishing essential information on the culture's immense achievements, ultimately stresses Renaissance Europe's blind spots and omissions, shortcomings and contradictions. Sensual indulgence as opposed to new social controls is exemplified by the fact that ``one out of seven'' Britons were accused of sexual misconduct in Elizabethan England and the inclusion of prostitutes as guests at Vatican entertainments; other problems range from the lack of practical theories of social reform to the excess of engineering ideas that were ``theoretically plausible but impractical'' yet were ``accepted by the wisest council of the soberest government[s] of Europe.'' Galileo, who destroyed the very premises of astrology, still ``cast horoscopes for his Medici patrons and their friends.'' While noting Europe's growing sense of modernity, Hale also traces the continent's cultural ``drawing in on itself,'' regions' rising separatism, cities' found-and-lost civility, and individuals' adoption of ``Melancholy'' out of ``hopeless... inner confusion.'' The art descriptions are wittily precise, the illustrations well-chosen, and the quotations often come from superb period translations. Masterful portraiture.

Pub Date: July 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-689-12200-4

Page Count: 648

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1994

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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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