Despite the pop-history trimmings, a solid résumé of everything anyone would want to know about this undeservedly neglected...



Competent biography of Washington’s talented young protégé, who commanded the artillery throughout the American Revolution and served as the nation’s first Secretary of War.

When hostilities broke out, Knox (1750–1806) was a Boston bookseller and enthusiastic member of the local militia, reports Puls (Samuel Adams: Father of the American Revolution, 2006). Most of his knowledge about artillery came from the books in his shop, but that didn’t stop him from offering his services to Washington, who arrived after the Battle of Bunker Hill to take charge of the siege of Boston. Knox entered the war during the winter of 1775-76, when he directed the transport of several dozen immensely heavy cannons from Fort Ticonderoga across 200 miles of frozen wilderness to Boston. Their punishing firepower persuaded the British to evacuate. Directing artillery and engineering forces throughout the war, Knox served as Washington’s essential can-do man. The general ordered a three-pronged attack across the Delaware on Christmas Day, 1776, but only Knox’s prong successfully ferried 2,400 men and 18 field guns across the ice-clogged river to the Jersey shore. In the interim between independence and the first presidential election, he served the Continental Congress as Secretary of War. His proposal for a national military academy was greeted with admiration but did not bear fruit as West Point until 1802. As Washington’s Secretary of War, he worked hard to professionalize the nation’s minuscule Army. When Congress finally agreed to build warships in 1794, Knox educated himself on the subject and then made brilliant technical decisions that created a small but technically advanced U.S. Navy. Readers will encounter few surprises in this portrait of an uncontroversial figure, and some may be annoyed by the author’s attempts to enliven matters with fictionalized dialogue and confident pronouncements on his subject’s inner thoughts.

Despite the pop-history trimmings, a solid résumé of everything anyone would want to know about this undeservedly neglected not-quite founding father.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4039-8427-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2007

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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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