A solid, if staid, narrative of events once well-known throughout Europe, and now the province of a few specialists.




So Baron Munchausen lied after all: The Turks didn’t have heavy artillery at Vienna. Just so, Stoye (History/Magdalen College, Oxford) carefully amends much of what we know about that famed siege.

The Ottoman Empire did not advance on Vienna by whim in 1683. One of its interests was to keep Hungary, “a cluster of fortresses in water-logged country,” in the Turkish camp by, among other things, suppressing non-Islamic religions more or less equally, giving Protestantism equal footing with Catholicism and Orthodoxy. The Ottoman’s understanding of European divisions was essentially correct, since Eastern Europe feared Rome more than Istanbul. The Habsburgs, meanwhile, reckoned the Ottomans a negotiable threat, sure that “Louis XIV was more to be feared than Mehmed IV,” since France was emerging as a continental power with expansionist ambitions of its own. But then, so was Poland, and so was Russia, and so were various German states. The Habsburgs amended their view when 100,000 Ottoman soldiers, including fine cavalry and artillery, arrived at the gates of Vienna and laid a siege that, for a time, was a business-as-usual sort of thing—until hunger and disease settled in. Effectively unable to do much, and beset by rebel forces from fallen colonies, the Habsburgs let it slip that they could use help, whereupon those ambitious powers competed to relieve Vienna. Yet they also worked in alliance, given powerful stimulus in the “military implications if Kara Mustafa permanently lodged an Ottoman garrison in the heart of Europe.” Finally, the siege was lifted when the famed Polish warrior king Jan Sobieski arrived with 30,000 well-trained soldiers, closely followed by 40,000 troops led by French Duke Charles V. Better armed and led, the allied forces secured the region from the Turks, setting the Ottomans on a slow course of decline.

A solid, if staid, narrative of events once well-known throughout Europe, and now the province of a few specialists.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-933648-14-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2006

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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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