The making of modern Iraq is just one small slice in this monumental, well-told story.



In an engaging history of the enormous contributions of the “land between two rivers,” Robertson (Ancient and Middle Eastern Studies/Central Michigan Univ.) is an energetic, positive booster for a remarkable people who have suffered through countless outsider incursions, especially in recent decades.

Focusing on the accomplishments of Mesopotamia and the ingenuity of its people through the ages, the author helps dispel myths and stereotypes about Iraq. Mesopotamia’s “seminal advances in human endeavor” began due to the region’s key central location between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, whose cyclical flooding spurred the use of irrigation by enterprising farmers, allowing the growth of grain and the development of woolen textiles for trade. The rivers facilitated important trade routes both east and west but also rendered the region vulnerable to external forces. From this “heartland of cities” rose the first writing system, cuneiform, and a bureaucratic system, celebrated by the code of King Hammurabi of Babylon. Robertson astutely notes how relatively little we know about the great Assyrian kingdom compared to ancient Rome, though some of the rulers are mentioned in the Old Testament. The vast, sophisticated city of Babylon became the capital of the Middle Eastern empire inherited by the Chaldeans, and despite its luxurious reputation, it was in Babylonian exile that the Hebrew priests, scribes, and scholars assembled the Old Testament. Overrun successively by Persians, Alexander the Great, Arab Muslims, Turks, and Mongols, Iraq was a “cradle” of world religions, from Zoroastrianism to Christianity. Robertson does a fine job delineating the brilliance of the Islamic golden age, centered at its new Abbasid capital of Baghdad, established in 762. The author also painstakingly explains the differences and rivalries among the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds.

The making of modern Iraq is just one small slice in this monumental, well-told story.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-85168-586-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Oneworld Publications

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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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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