A masterful account of Europe’s cursed century. When the smoke cleared from the ruins of the Second World War, many observers assumed that Europe as it had been known for centuries had come to an end. From the physical destruction of cities to the moral catastrophe of fascism and Nazism, it seemed as though those on the Continent had committed a collective suicide. A new type of war—cold—hovered on the horizon, leading some to envision the planet’s complete and final destruction. But as British historian Mazower (Univ. of Sussex; Inside Hitler’s Greece, 1993) makes clear, things weren—t always like this. The century had begun with high hopes, dashed by the bloody conflict of the Great War. Moreover, Europe’s reconstruction and the relatively peaceful close of the Cold War give reason for hope. More insightfully, Mazower stresses that the very concept of “Europe” has metamorphosed with startling rapidity over the last hundred years. And this ability to change may well prove to be the continent’s saving grace, he avers. The book is organized around the major three-way ideological struggle of the century: that between liberal democracy, fascism, and communism. Both fascism and communism claimed not only to be on the side of history, but also to be offering an end to it. Liberal democracy, the most modest of ideologies, appears to have weathered the storm best. Yet Mazower refuses to offer such platitudes as that liberal democracy “won” the Cold War or that we—ve therefore arrived at history’s “end.” Instead, as he explains in an epilogue, the task of “making Europe” continues to this day. Well written, with an excellent grasp of sources in several languages, this is a landmark study for the general reader. (10 maps)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-679-43809-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1998

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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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