A fresh, enlightening look at American society as it reluctantly worked its way into being a world power—most valuable to...



The latest installment of the Library of Congress’ series of illustrated histories and timelines, this one focusing on World War I.

Beginning in 1912, Wagner (The Library of Congress Illustrated Timeline of the Civil War, 2011, etc.), a senior writer/editor at the LOC Publishing Office, describes the isolationism gripping the United States; many citizens, experiencing a wave of societal changes, were distrustful of a standing army. With the speedy growth of invention—e.g., electricity, cars, planes, telephones, moving pictures—income inequality and labor relations exacerbated anger and friction. The war wasn’t much of a surprise after the Balkan Wars exposed interference from both Turkey and Russia, making Austria-Hungary nervous. America faced her own threats. The Mexican Revolution spilled over into Texas, raising demands that Wilson send in troops. Here, as she does throughout, Wagner depicts events not often given sufficient coverage in history books. Mexico pushed us toward war, with lots of prodding from Germany, and Japan was taking its turn saber-rattling in the Pacific. Many pacifist Americans spoke out against the war, including Jane Addams, Henry Ford, and Sen. Robert La Follette. When war did break out, Americans rushed to send aid but refused to join. Wilson and Congress, fearing a fifth column, passed the Espionage Act in 1917, which quickly exposed poor intelligence services that relied on informers and vigilantes convicting the innocent. Germany’s decision to return to unrestricted U-boat warfare in 1917 reminded Americans of the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. But the tipping point was the Zimmerman telegram, which proposed an alliance between Germany and Mexico. The author elaborates on how little help the U.S. provided at first; lack of equipment, the need for conscription, and lack of boats to transport them were only parts of the problem. The troops were trained, finally, but not in methods useful in the trenches.

A fresh, enlightening look at American society as it reluctantly worked its way into being a world power—most valuable to historians and sociologists.

Pub Date: May 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62040-982-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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



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

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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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