A much-needed addition to the literature of World War I, which is undergoing substantial revision nearly a century after it...



Penetrating study of one of the forgotten fronts of the Great War.

Italy went to war with the neighboring Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1915 for complex reasons, writes British historian Thompson (Forging War: The Media in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Hercegovina, 2003, etc.), not least of them the irredentist view that ethnic Italians belonged to a greater Italy. The Allies abetted this view, promising to render Tyrol, Trieste and the Dalmatian coast to Italy, as well as portions of the Greek islands, Turkey and Africa. Italy’s politicians pitched an inadequately prepared and provisioned army against a tactically superior enemy, which held most of the high ground. The “white war” of Thompson’s title refers to the snowy peaks along the alpine front, but also to the sheer limestone walls that gleamed white in summer and had to be scaled—the Western front, Thompson memorably notes, tilted 45 degrees. In any season, the front was terrible, and thousands of men died—in sheer percentages, at a higher rate of casualty than in much better-known battles in France and Belgium. A few future historical giants turn up in Thompson’s pages, including Benito Mussolini, Gabriele d’Annunzio and Erwin Rommel, but mostly his informants are the forgotten soldiers of the forgotten war, one of whom recalled, “We kill each other like this, coldly, because whatever does not touch the sphere of our own life does not exist.” Many of the ethnic groups in which those soldiers figured would reappear in the history of Europe, among them Bosnian Muslims, Serbs and Slovenes, “whose alleged pacifism would be a stock joke in Tito’s Yugoslavia” but who drew rivers of Italian blood. Ironically, Italy never got its promised empire, though Mussolini would spend much effort and countless lives seeking it.

A much-needed addition to the literature of World War I, which is undergoing substantial revision nearly a century after it was fought.

Pub Date: April 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-465-01329-6

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2009

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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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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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