A worthy companion to Frederick Taylor’s Dresden (2004), shedding new light on a neglected chapter of the air war in Europe.



A thoroughgoing history of the Allied bombing campaign that leveled a great German city—but did little damage to the Nazi war machine.

“I have very little problem with the fact that Hamburg was bombed,” writes history editor and novelist Lowe (New Free Chocolate Sex, 2005, etc.). The city was, he writes, a center of war-related manufacture, a place where U-boats and aircraft were produced in great number. Yet the historically anglophilic city, a center of resistance to Nazi rule early on, had to be sacrificed: At that stage of the war, bombing German cities, Lowe argues, was the one way the Western allies had to show the long-suffering Russians that they were doing anything meaningful against their common enemy—and, at the same time, diverted resources from the Russian Front. Moreover, Hamburg was a victim of a British leadership schooled in the trenches in WWI, convinced that bombing enemy civilians was not such a bad thing given the morale-reducing effects this could have on their loved ones in the military. The head of the British air command, “Butcher” Harris, selected two advance targets, the seaport cities of Lübeck and Rostock, because “their crowded wooden buildings were highly flammable, and would provide a perfect opportunity for Harris to test his belief that incendiaries, rather than high explosive, were the most efficient means of destroying a city.” They were indeed, and Harris hurled wave after wave of bombers against the heavily defended city, raining a hell of fire and killing nearly 45,000 civilians in a week and leaving another million homeless. Describing this carnage in gruesome detail, Lowe reckons that this apocalyptic attack on Hamburg was “more akin to the annihilation that would soon become possible in the nuclear age” than to anything that passed as conventional bombing at the time.

A worthy companion to Frederick Taylor’s Dresden (2004), shedding new light on a neglected chapter of the air war in Europe.

Pub Date: June 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-7432-6900-1

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2007

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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...


A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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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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