THE FACE OF BATTLE

A STUDY OF AGINCOURT, WATERLOO, AND THE SOMME

Sixty years ago, Pound argued for a scholarship of the telling fact; he would have to commend this splendid history, in which John Keegan gives us the spectacle of battle with such luminous and precise detail that not only battle's gruesome distress for the common soldier, but also the circumjacent conditions of battles fought and won, become vividly clear. The specific British victories Keegan examines are three, and take place over a period of 500 years and a geographical range of 100 miles: the battle of Agincourt, where Henry V fought by the side of his 6,000 archers and cavalrymen, each in sixty pounds of armor, man-to-man; Waterloo, where Wellington rode all day behind the cannons to stay near the heaviest fighting; and the Somme in 1916, where the British lost thousands of men in the first minutes of battle, and where only the junior officers saw action. Keegan suggests that operations on the Somme set some limit to what men could stand on the battlefield; his thesis—and he draws imaginatively from official histories, military records, soldiers' reminiscences, and the British literature of war to demonstrate it—is that when the gulf between social life and battlefield existence has become too gaping, the fighting soldier may refuse to fight, and battles may become impossible to win. This is a book unusual in its research and intelligence, to be read by everyone—and not least our military leadership.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1976

ISBN: 0140048979

Page Count: 380

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1976

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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 PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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