GHOSTS OF EMPIRE

BRITAIN'S LEGACY IN THE MODERN WORLD

Perhaps the sun has not quite set on the British Empire.

That’s the premise of Kwarteng’s fascinating debut about the long-term and far-reaching effects of British rule. As the son of Ghanaian immigrants to London, educated at Eton and Cambridge, his views encompass the attitudes of both rulers and the ruled. He supports his statement that “instability in the world is a product of [the British Empire’s] legacy of individualism and haphazard policy making” with both fact and logical hypotheses. There never was an imperial strategic plan, he writes, nor directives to those who ruled. “Encourage trade” was the only directive. There were few, if any, instances of policy reversal by London. Colonial leaders ruled as judges, lawgivers and police with no oversight. Most administrators of British colonies followed the principal of masterly inactivity. Decisions made by one colonial ruler would often be overturned by the next one. Tribal leaders, indigenous administrators and monarchs appointed by the English ruled without interference, some wisely, most autocratically to the detriment of the population. Most of these countries continue to struggle to find their own identity. Kwarteng maintains that those who served the empire were not appointed because of their class, but their education and their athletic ability. The Duke of Wellington put it best when he said, “The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing field of Eton.” The author insists that it wasn’t a class-oriented society, but the majority of those who served in the colonies first went to one of the best public schools, preferably Eton, and subsequently studied classics at Oxford or Cambridge. The hierarchical society in the colonies was far more restrictive than any found in England, even though it too was based not on money but on education and status. Rule was serendipitous, and the locals were effectively ignored and left to their own devices—as long as they didn’t interrupt trade. Kwarteng effectively illustrates the effects of empire in a forceful and thorough book that holds important lessons for today’s leaders—in particular that the cost of invading and occupying a country always exceeds expectations.  

 

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61039-120-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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...

NIGHT

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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