Like a Welsh archer: hits the mark more often than not.




Henry V leads the English to a stunning victory over a vastly superior French force at Agincourt in 1415.

A favorite of military historians and well-known to acolytes of Shakespeare, the battle of Agincourt is remembered largely because of the odds overcome by an outmanned force of Englishmen. Historian Barker (Wordsworth: A Life, 2005) focuses on events leading up to the battle and how that battle defined Henry’s rule and legacy. Following the death of his father, Henry moved swiftly to secure his throne and proceeded to launch a campaign to retake what he viewed as his rightful inheritance in France. An unstable French monarch and rival factions of French noblemen wary of joining forces only strengthened Henry’s confidence. After capturing the city of Harfleur, Henry decided to move his troops, significantly weakened by dysentery, to the English stronghold of Calais. The French army, however, had other plans. While other sources, namely Curry’s Agincourt: A New History (2005), argue for a smaller discrepancy, Barker gives the French a 6:1 advantage. The French, though, were led by vainglorious men with conflicting agendas. A soggy battlefield and questionable tactics essentially neutralized the French cavalry, allowing the cornered English to use their vaunted Welsh longbows to annihilate their enemy. Barker estimates French losses in the thousands while the English lost less than a quarter of their considerably smaller force. Though an impressive victory, its long-term ramifications were few, and Barker argues that perhaps its most significant effect was persuading the populace of Henry’s divine right to rule. The author’s only weakness is a tendency to justify Henry’s few missteps and the failures of the French commanders in order to make the battle seem more epic and less luck or poor execution.

Like a Welsh archer: hits the mark more often than not.

Pub Date: June 14, 2006

ISBN: 0-316-01503-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 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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