A law professor revisits the trial that “saved…the very soul” of South Africa.

This latest in the Pivotal Moments in World History series features the dramatic 1963–64 trial of 10 defendants, including Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Govan Mbeki, charged with sabotage against South Africa’s apartheid government. Named for the Johannesburg suburb in which all the conspirators except for the already imprisoned Mandela were arrested, Rivonia was a criminal trial with the life of each defendant at stake. It’s remembered, though, for its enormous political dimension, as the forum where the defendants, with considerable help from their extraordinarily talented team of advocates, helped frame the political and moral crisis wrought by the government’s apartheid system. For 25 years, Broun (Law/Univ. of North Carolina; Black Lawyers, White Courts: Soul of South African Law, 2000, etc.) has regularly traveled to South Africa helping to train young lawyers. His familiarity with the country, its legal system and three of the principal Rivonia defense attorneys lends special authority to his presentation and interpretation of the events. Rivonia featured its share of fireworks—an unlikely and successful pre-trial jailbreak by two of the arrestees, a stirring address to the court by Mandela—but Broun is at his best examining the legal subtleties of the trial and the strategies and agendas of the defense attorneys and government officials. All but two defendants were convicted and received life sentences. Dismantling apartheid, transforming South African law and ensuring the primacy of human rights would be the work of future decades, but, as the author demonstrates, all this would likely have unfolded far more violently but for Rivonia. A taut, intelligent analysis of a dramatic turning point in South African and, indeed, world history.  


Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-19-974022-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2011

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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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