TELLING THE TRUTH ABOUT HISTORY

A ``late-twentieth century understanding of historical truth,'' outlined by three women historians, Appleby (History/UCLA), Hunt (History/UPenn) and Jacob (History/New School for Social Research). While there has been widespread discussion in the United States about the current state of academe, the supposed decline in its standards, and the prevalence of political correctness, there has not been much reflection, outside the profession, of what the authors call the ``ferocity of the current argument about how United States history should be taught.'' It is, the authors note, a controversy about values, objective knowledge, cultural diversity, and the nature of truth. The virtue of this book is that it makes a history of the study of history, particularly as it applies to the United States, more accessible to the general reader by turning a relatively dispassionate eye on the various schools of history that have prevailed: the protagonists of history as a science, the Frontier school, the Economic Interpretation School, the Marxists, the ``City on the Hill'' enthusiasts, the postmodernists, and the multiculturalists. The very prevalence of the different schools is, in itself, a caution against too heavy a reliance on any one of them, and the authors plump for ``the most objective possible explanations'' and the traditional narrative form of history. They believe passionately in the importance of what they are doing, in the ``intense craving for insight into what it is to be human,'' and reject those who are skeptical of the entire enterprise. The archives in Lyons, France, they note, are ``reached by walking up some three hundred stone steps. For the practical realists...the climb is worth the effort; the relativists would not bother.'' Underlying the argument, the authors contend, is ``the collapse on all fronts of intellectual and political absolutism,'' and they try to cut through the ``variety of noisy conversations'' with a more reasoned and less disputatious view. A tad tactful at times, and occasionally repetitive in noting the central role played by men in most historical accounts, but clearheaded, and often a pleasure to read.

Pub Date: April 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-393-03615-4

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1994

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

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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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