Banning (History/Univ. of Kentucky; Jefferson and Madison: Three Conversations from the Founding, 1995, etc.) offers a dry-as- dust intellectual history of James Madison's evolution from ardent Federalist to partisan opponent of the Washington administration. Banning starts with the riddle that has puzzled Madison biographers through the years: How could the ``father of the Constitution,'' coauthor of The Federalist, and draftsman of the Bill of Rights, who started his public life by favoring strong central government and extensive protection against majority oppression, have become the leader of an ideologically populist party? Banning argues that while Madison's thought evolved with changing circumstances, his Federalism and his defense of democracy and local interests were more consistent than is generally thought. In Madison's view, the author asserts, the democratic and revolutionary promise of the Declaration of Independence and the pragmatic checks and balances of the Constitution were both parts of the legacy of the American Revolution. Madison came to Congress in 1780, when the Articles of Confederation were brand-new and the outcome of the Revolution in doubt. He became convinced that the Confederation government was weak and that this weakness was endangering the Revolution. Although many viewed the Constitution's provision for a strong central government and use of checks and balances to restrain the excesses of the popularly elected legislature as compromises of the democratic ideals of the Revolution, Banning demonstrates that Madison viewed them as protections of personal liberty. However, once the Constitution was ratified, Madison became an advocate of liberty in another senseas democracy. By 1792, he was a national leader of the Democratic- Republican party, and his ideological orientation was set for the rest of his public life. Hobbled by a sometimes turgid prose style, Banning's discussion of Madison's ideas never sufficiently renders him a flesh-and-blood person.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-8014-3152-2

Page Count: 536

Publisher: Cornell Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1995

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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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