We are all implicated in the world of the giant factory, but students of economic history and geopolitics in particular will...

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BEHEMOTH

A HISTORY OF THE FACTORY AND THE MAKING OF THE MODERN WORLD

Wide-ranging study of the world’s factories over the last three centuries.

The birthplace of the factory may have been England, as Freeman (History/Queen’s Coll.; American Empire: The Rise of a Global Power, the Democratic Revolution at Home 1945-2000, 2012, etc.) writes, but the idea of concentrated labor spread quickly throughout the world, with changes befitting local conditions as it went. For example, whereas the British countryside was crowded and full of employable men, the hinterlands of New England were not, leading capitalists there to find “a brilliant solution in the recruitment of young women” who, coming and going into marriage and their family households, would be a constantly changing cast of characters and not a “permanent proletariat.” With workers came management theories such as Taylorism, named for Frederick Winslow Taylor, who, of a liberal and educated Philadelphia family, defied expectations to become first a factory worker and then a consultant on factory labor—and whose practices “meant a loss of autonomy and an attack on craft pride” in the eyes of many workers and activists, lending credence to Marxist ideas of labor value and alienation. As Freeman notes, industrial work has fallen off considerably in the U.S., which has led to wholesale re-evaluations of the political place of unions, the role of workers in mass progressive movements, and so forth, even as manufacturing work has remained mostly steady worldwide, with about a third of the workforce engaged in industry, most employed in factories. The author also notes that factories have life cycles just as does everything else, though these are recognized differently from place to place. In China, for instance, tinkering with the industrial mix and downsizing for efficiency would run the risk of igniting political opposition, with the result that “the Chinese government moves gingerly in its prolonged effort to shut down unneeded or inefficient state-owned factory giants.”

We are all implicated in the world of the giant factory, but students of economic history and geopolitics in particular will find much of value here.

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-393-24631-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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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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At nearly 1,000 pages, Chernow delivers a deeply researched, everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know biography, but few readers...

GRANT

A massive biography of the Civil War general and president, who “was the single most important figure behind Reconstruction.”

Most Americans know the traditional story of Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885): a modest but brutal general who pummeled Robert E. Lee into submission and then became a bad president. Historians changed their minds a generation ago, and acclaimed historian Chernow (Washington: A Life, 2010, etc.), winner of both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, goes along in this doorstop of a biography, which is admiring, intensely detailed, and rarely dull. A middling West Point graduate, Grant performed well during the Mexican War but resigned his commission, enduring seven years of failure before getting lucky. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he was the only West Point graduate in the area, so local leaders gave him a command. Unlike other Union commanders, he was aggressive and unfazed by setbacks. His brilliant campaign at Vicksburg made him a national hero. Taking command of the Army of the Potomac, he forced Lee’s surrender, although it took a year. Easily elected in 1868, he was the only president who truly wanted Reconstruction to work. Despite achievements such as suppressing the Ku Klux Klan, he was fighting a losing battle. Historian Richard N. Current wrote, “by backing Radical Reconstruction as best he could, he made a greater effort to secure the constitutional rights of blacks than did any other President between Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson.” Recounting the dreary scandals that soiled his administration, Chernow emphasizes that Grant was disastrously lacking in cynicism. Loyal to friends and susceptible to shady characters, he was an easy mark, and he was fleeced regularly throughout his life. In this sympathetic biography, the author continues the revival of Grant’s reputation.

At nearly 1,000 pages, Chernow delivers a deeply researched, everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know biography, but few readers will regret the experience. For those seeking a shorter treatment, turn to Josiah Bunting’s Ulysses S. Grant (2004).

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59420-487-6

Page Count: 928

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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