A superb local history—but in Northern Ireland, local history is of international importance.




Elliott (Irish Studies/Liverpool Univ.) offers a scholarly history of Ulster Catholics, which by definition is a history of Ulster Protestants as well.

Ulster is composed of nine counties, six of them in Northern Ireland, the other three part of the Republic of Ireland. Unlike the Republic, which is around 95 percent Catholic, Northern Ireland is about two-thirds Protestant and largely of Scottish or English (rather than Irish) ancestry. Quite logically, they are pro-Union (wishing to stay united with England). The Catholic minority in Ulster, with equal logic, resents British rule and for many years refused to participate in Northern Ireland’s government, thus ensuring that a pattern of disenfranchisement and discrimination was carried out against them. To understand how this complicated business came to be, Elliott travels back to St. Patrick and his conversion of the island to Christianity, then describes a series of English invasions (making use of Scottish mercenaries) that ensued down the years. She discusses the peculiar development of Irish Catholicism, always a bit too far away for Roman dominance. Then it’s on to Scottish—and thus Protestant—domination of Ulster; early nationalism among Ulstermen (who held “Irish” and “Catholic” to be synonymous terms); the penal laws of the 18th century (which further dispossessed Ulster Catholics and established their curse of poverty); the political emergence of Catholics in the 19th century; and the 20th-century events that led to the present “troubles.” Elliott, an Ulster Catholic, treats all parties fairly, but she has a special insight into the discrimination (mainly in schooling and housing) that Ulster Catholics endure, and into the thousand (almost subliminal) codes that people who are in most respects identical invoke to keep themselves separate.

A superb local history—but in Northern Ireland, local history is of international importance.

Pub Date: March 15, 2001

ISBN: 0-465-01903-X

Page Count: 599

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

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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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