Deftly crafted history illuminates the nation’s earliest days.



How a little-known member of the Plymouth settlement made a significant impact on its success.

Attorney Mack, a member of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, makes his book debut with an absorbing, perceptive biography of Stephen Hopkins (1581-1644), who made two voyages from England to the New World. As the author argues convincingly, he proved to be “a key figure in the Pilgrims’ struggles and triumphs.” Hopkins sailed first to Jamestown in 1609, remaining there for a few years. In 1620, he joined the passengers of the Mayflower: the Saints, bound by religious covenant, and the dissident Strangers, Hopkins among them. Because he left no diary or journal, Hopkins has been neglected by historians, overshadowed by his contemporaries Myles Standish and William Bradford. But Mack makes judicious use of evidence to create a nuanced portrait of a complex man—independent, intelligent, “stubborn when he felt wronged”—who took an influential role, bringing to decisions wisdom gleaned from his earlier experiences. Those experiences were dire: Shipwrecked off the coast of Bermuda in 1609, Hopkins became mired in scandal, accused of mutiny, and sentenced to death. He escaped to Jamestown, where he found himself “on the doorstep of hell”: The town was in ruins, the population decimated by starvation, and relationships with Native peoples were tense. The author creates a visceral sense of the hardship of settlement and of trans-Atlantic crossing, when ships were at the mercy of doldrums or tempests. “The wooden ship groaned and creaked,” he writes, and in the dark living area, “the smells of 150 unwashed people and rotting food intensified.” Many died during the voyage. The survivors, their food stores perilously diminished, landed on cold, inhospitable terrain, and attack by Indigenous tribes seemed probable. Because he had advocated for diplomacy with Natives in Jamestown—where he had met Pocahontas—Hopkins, “a cool thinker,” pressed for conciliation and peace. His success in developing rapport and forging bonds between Pilgrims and Natives opened “the door to the prospect of prosperity that came with peace.”

Deftly crafted history illuminates the nation’s earliest days.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64160-090-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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