From a British specialist in Asian affairs, this is comprehensive, fact-choked history of the Engish East India Company, which went to India to trade and founded an empire—the British Raj. Chosen as one of the three best books of the year in England by the Financial Times, it is a bold attempt to tell the action- packed story of a trading company that was founded in 1600 and continued in business until 1873; a company that, stretching from London to China, was once the world's largest trading power. Over the course of two centuries it behaved more like an independent principality as it made treaties, waged wars, and acquired territories. Created in London by ``men with long heads and deep purposes,'' it originally sought to gain for England a portion of the profitable spice trade, which had been hitherto controlled by the Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch. There was also a secondary purpose—to find markets for Britain's wool cloth, an absurdist subtext to the more colorful trading ventures as the British merchants vainly tried to sell heavy fustian to tropical peoples. Beginning with the early days when these entrepreneurs were more buccaneers than legitimate traders, Keay goes on to describe the derring-do and occasional chicanery that led to the granting of trading rights; the great fortunes made in India by men such as Thomas Pitt, the great-grandfather of Prime Minister William Pitt; the founding of cities like Calcutta and Bombay; the regulations made in response to attacks by Edmund Burke, who claimed the company had broken every treaty it had ever made and sold every title it had ever dispensed; the opium sales that paid for the entire investment in tea; and the eventual takeover by the British government intent on creating an empire. Keay has written a colorful, swashbuckling saga filled with epic characters and ambitions as corporate history merges with world history. A notable achievement.

Pub Date: May 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-02-561169-0

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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