An exhaustive reassessment of a war neither side really won.




British military historian Latimer (Burma: The Forgotten War, 2004, etc.) provides a blow-by-blow study of this still vaguely understood conflict.

Known primarily for inspiring Francis Scott Key to write “The Star Spangled Banner,” the War of 1812 was a hugely convoluted affair. The hostility between England and the United States, both still smarting from the War for Independence, was exacerbated by the British perception that the Jefferson and Madison administrations were pro-French, by American land lust and by such maritime grievances as the Royal Navy’s impressment of U.S. sailors. Latimer takes the English point of view that America’s goal was to overrun Canada. Markets were depressed from 1808 to 1812, and trade was of first importance to the fledgling U.S. government. Jefferson believed the conquest of Canada “a mere matter of marching,” first to Montreal and from there to take control of the Great Lakes. With England preoccupied by Bonaparte’s conquests in Europe, Canada was left to raise its own means of defense under Colonel Isaac Brock and governor-in-chief George Prevost. The British enlisted the help of Indian leaders such as Tenskwatawa and his brother Tecumseh, while Brock successfully resisted the American invasion at the Battle of Queenston Heights. American privateers took to sea and wreaked havoc on Royal Navy vessels, as Latimer demonstrates in one dizzying chapter. He explores in painstaking detail the campaigns on the lakes and the frontier, the raids and blockades; he looks carefully at the defining battles of Plattsburgh and New Orleans, as well as the burning and ransacking of Washington by the British in 1814. In the end, no one was quite sure what it was all about, but the net result was to strengthen Canadian nationalism.

An exhaustive reassessment of a war neither side really won.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-674-02584-4

Page Count: 574

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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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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