A well-supported, wide-ranging history of the Western world.



How European culture has shaped the world for the past 500 years.

MacLennan (Spain and the Process of European Integration, 1957-85, 2001, etc.), the director of the Cervantes Institute in London, worries that the European Union is being unfairly attacked and European unification eroded by revivals of nationalism. To counter those forces, he offers a sweeping history from the 16th century to the present, making a compelling case for European influence throughout the world. Aimed at readers who may wonder, “what has Europe done for us?” the author surveys Europe’s achievements, synthesizing histories of different nations as well as overviews by historians such as Norman Davies, Niall Ferguson, and Felipe Fernandez-Armesto. The Renaissance, writes MacLennan, introduced decisive changes in what was “a relatively backward, inward-looking civilization.” “The market economy, the state, and the knowledge-based society” propelled Europe “to take the lead over all other civilizations.” Exploration was spurred by improved sailing technology and daring adventurers. With Columbus’ discovery of America, Spain transformed itself into a global empire, with Portugal, France, and Britain following in overseas expansion, establishment of trade networks, and economic development between Europe and the rest of the world. The age of empire was also the age of economic, social, and political revolutions. The French Revolution, MacLennan asserts, proved transformative for the Western world by promoting equality rather than “a closed elite that monopolized power” and wealth. As European nations extended into Asia, the clash between East and West resulted in cohabitation in India, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia; Westernization of Japan; but resistance by the Chinese, who increasingly looked inward. MacLennan traces the influence of European culture through immigration, colonialism in Africa, and intellectual migration and exile after the world wars. He contrasts the American dream of individual accumulation of wealth with the European dream of a socially and economically harmonious society, underscored by the idea of soft power, “the ability to shape the behavior of others through appeal and attraction.”

A well-supported, wide-ranging history of the Western world.

Pub Date: July 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68177-756-6

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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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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