A meaty, methodical exploration of a crucial American founding stronghold.




A historian thoroughly scours the record to resurrect the history of a well-intentioned ideal society that was ultimately “undermined by fatal flaws.”

Unlike many of the doomed early American experiments at colonization, such as Walter Raleigh’s “lost” Roanoke Colony and other failures in Newfoundland, Boston—created to escape “the imperial decay and religious persecution that threatened England’s government and church”—succeeded, both as a center of Atlantic Puritanism as well as a trading hub. Created by a charter issued by King Charles I in 1629, the “city-state” of Boston, writes Peterson (History/Yale Univ.; The Price of Redemption: The Spiritual Economy of Puritan New England, 1997), was founded as a “self-conscious attempt to build an autonomous self-governing republic modeled on biblical and classical republican ideals in a New World environment.” Though silver and gold were not discovered nearby, furs and codfish took their place and were entirely exploited due to a judicious bartering with the Native inhabitants, who, unlike the early settlers, were hunters and fishers. When these commodities became scarce and the economy in relation to English trade tanked, the enterprising Bostonians looked to the Caribbean colonies, where sugar production was booming. They began building their own ships, and slaves were imported by the mid-17th century. Sustaining Indian wars and Atlantic trade competition, Boston emerged from being a “backwater, a bystander in the puritan crusade against the Spanish foe, into a new transatlantic center of colonization to which other plantations looked for assistance.” From there, Boston exerted its unique position by issuing its own coins, extending its territorial reach, and “fending off the crown’s agents.” Through specific historical personages such as John Adams and African-American poet Phillis Wheatley and chapters framed on biblical allusions (“The Selling of Joseph”), Peterson leads us through the city’s Enlightenment ideals and how they clashed with the city’s links to the American South’s slave-driven economy.

A meaty, methodical exploration of a crucial American founding stronghold.

Pub Date: March 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-691-17999-5

Page Count: 832

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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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