Flickers of interest, but an inconsequential entry in the crowded race of works devoted to the upcoming Lewis and Clark...

SEDUCED BY THE WEST

JEFFERSON’S AMERICA AND THE LURE OF THE LAND BEYOND THE MISSISSIPPI

Mix “fiery-tempered Spaniards” and ignoble Virginians, and you’re likely to get trouble. Throw in Napoleon, and the plot thickens. . . .

Amateur historian Carlson (Cattle, 2001, etc.) wonders why Thomas Jefferson should have bothered to send Meriwether Lewis and William Clark off on an arduous transcontinental journey by foot when Yankee clippers were already plying the Pacific coast, why he didn’t bother to commission one of those ships to pick them up at the mouth of the Columbia River. The answer? Jefferson didn’t want them to survive, didn’t think they would survive; he meant them as bait by which to pick a fight with the Spanish, who would certainly “try to stop them, perhaps even kill them” as they slogged their way across territory claimed by the Spanish crown. Such resistance would afford Jefferson a quasi-legal pretext for inaugurating a great land grab and forcing the Spanish empire south of the Rio Grande, as in fact happened 40 years later with the Mexican-American War. It makes a nice conspiracy theory, and it has a little merit: plenty of Jefferson’s correspondence (which, to judge by the scant bibliography here, Carlson has not consulted) suggests his dislike for Spain and his desire to make the land beyond the Appalachians part of the US. But Jefferson also plainly wrote that the Spanish empire in America would soon fall apart of its own accord without American soldiers having to do anything about it, and he counseled a wait-and-see approach at odds with the one Carlson proposes. Carlson does a good job of restoring overlooked figures, such as mariner John Ledyard and accidental diplomat Nicholas Trist to the record, but her speculations pale next to far better-developed, and better-documented, recent studies of the Lewis and Clark expedition and westward expansion, notably Jon Kukla’s A Wilderness So Immense (p. 209) and Thomas Slaughter’s Exploring Lewis and Clark (2002).

Flickers of interest, but an inconsequential entry in the crowded race of works devoted to the upcoming Lewis and Clark bicentenary.

Pub Date: May 3, 2003

ISBN: 1-56663-490-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Ivan Dee/Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

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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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