A lucid, well-written survey that covers a lot of ground—well, of fathoms.




A sprawling, readable history of the world from the sailor’s point of view—and not just on the oceans of the world, but also its lakes and rivers.

Maine-based maritime historian Paine (Down East: A Maritime History of Maine, 2000, etc.) takes a broad view of his subject, beginning in deepest antiquity: “It is impossible to know who first set themselves adrift in saltwater or fresh and for what reason, but once launched our ancestors never looked back.” Indeed, the Americas might have been first peopled by migrants traveling not via a land bridge but by boat, while the shipbuilding industry as such is at least 4,000 years old, represented by a site on the Strait of Hormuz at which ship hulls were found made of reeds, mats and animal skins “coated with a bitumen amalgam.” Many of the great historical maritime episodes figure in Paine’s pages, from Salamis to the Columbian crossings—including the fourth, after which, to Columbus’ shame, he was stripped of titles and land, “bitter that licenses were now being issued to others to sail to Hispaniola.” The author does a fine job of educing a-ha moments from his material, as when he notes the importance of river and sea travel in America’s westward expansion and accounts for the lopsided British victory at Trafalgar by noting that the Royal Navy “had cultivated a psychological advantage based on a belief that the point of battle was to attack.” Fittingly, recurrent themes include the sea as a medium for spreading not just trade, but also ideology, as with the Muslim conquest of much of the Mediterranean during the Middle Ages and subsequent spread of Islam. With so large and diffuse a book, Paine skips over a few things and heavily condenses others; his account of the rise of containerization, which has had so profound an effect on international trade, merits far more than the few pages allowed for it.

A lucid, well-written survey that covers a lot of ground—well, of fathoms.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4000-4409-2

Page Count: 784

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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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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