Very nicely written through and through, and a pleasure for students of world exploration.

OVER THE EDGE OF THE WORLD

MAGELLAN’S TERRIFYING CIRCUMNAVIGATION OF THE GLOBE

A vivid account of Magellan’s star-crossed voyage around the world nearly five centuries ago.

Fond of epic adventures and odd ducks alike, Bergreen (Voyage to Mars, 2000, etc.) finds a nice blend of the two in Ferdinand Magellan’s life and career. Considered a tyrant by some, a traitor by others, and often in trouble with one legal authority or another, Magellan seemed driven by a need both to serve the powerful and to make himself rich and/or famous in the bargain; he also had a habit of tripping himself up and making powerful enemies, racking up charges of selling provisions to the Arab enemy in one war and earning mistrust for abandoning his native Portugal for the chance to command an expedition for archrival Spain. Magellan’s skills as a soldier and apparent lack of fear in promoting his aims—if matched by a deeply provisional knowledge of the world beyond Iberia—eventually won him the exclusive contract to find the fabled Spice Islands and claim the lands he found for Christianity and Spain. Thanks to bad luck, poor skills on the human-relations front, and some unfortunate missteps at sea, Magellan found himself confronting near-constant mutinies great and small; he survived them only to die, in 1521, in the Philippines after picking a fight with the natives in a misguided attempt to prove his omnipotence. Bergreen, citing Magellan’s shipmate and chronicler Antonio Pigafetta, suggests that the Captain General’s ever-quarrelsome crew deliberately failed to come to his aid—“or their officers ordered them to stay put,” effecting an easily disguised mutiny by another name. Only one of the Magellan armada’s ships made it back to Spain, and 200 sailors died on the voyage. Still, Bergreen writes, the expedition had an important effect not only in pointing the way to the Spice Island trade, but also in dispelling reigning myths about “mermaids, boiling water at the equator, and a magnetic island capable of pulling the nails from passing ships.”

Very nicely written through and through, and a pleasure for students of world exploration.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2003

ISBN: 0-06-621173-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2003

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more