A useful, relevant history of a “relentlessly tempestuous” city.




Pertinent, patient study of the tumultuous history of this strategic city since its founding in 762.

British foreign correspondent Marozzi (The Way of Herodotus: Travels with the Man Who Invented History, 2008, etc.) has experience living in the “slaughterhouse” that Baghdad has become since the mid-2000s. In fact, sectarian violence has plagued the city since its creation as the new capital by the victorious Abbasid caliph al-Mansur. Eclipsing the Sunni Islam capital at Damascus and sending the Umayyad dynasty into exile, the new Shia-based Abbasid leaders chose the ancient Mesopotamian site between the Tigris and Euphrates for its central location and fertile land. The city’s name might be from Persian, meaning “founded by God,” yet Mansur preferred the name Dar as Salam, or “house of peace,” which would prove heavily ironic even for the murderous Mansur, who had a storehouse of corpses of his enemies. Originally constructed as a walled, round city, it soon expanded across the Tigris. Following Mansur’s death in 775, Baghdad would endure nearly 40 Abbasid caliphs, many enjoying splendid building projects and cultural efflorescence—e.g., the prosperous reign of Harun al-Rashid, immortalized in A Thousand and One Nights. The Mongol raids descended on the city from the mid-1200s onward, followed by Persia in 1508 and the Ottomans in 1528, who would remain until 1917. Yet despite the turbulence and frequent destruction, Baghdad remained a “bustling emporium,” with a thriving Jewish population as well. Marozzi has sifted through the numerous tales of travelers throughout the centuries, and he also makes use of the rich British accounts, which saw the city’s opening to outsiders by the mid-1800s. Indeed, the British introduced a succession of colorful characters—e.g., Sir Stanley Maude, who wrested the city from the Turks, and Gertrude Bell, champion of modern Iraq and preserver of its antiquities.

A useful, relevant history of a “relentlessly tempestuous” city.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-0306823985

Page Count: 536

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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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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