A whirlwind tour through the history of a vast foreign land. One quibble: The profusion of unfamiliar names is overwhelming...



A character-rich narrative of the exploration and exploitation of the Amazon River and the land drained by it from the days of the first European explorers to today’s cattle ranchers, farmers and oil men.

Former book editor and publisher De Bruhl (Firestorm: Allied Airpower and the Destruction of Dresden, 2006, etc.) opens with facts and figures demonstrating the immense size and importance of the Amazon. Each of the subsequent chapters tackles a period of the history of the region, beginning with the Inca Empire and its destruction by the Spanish conquistadores and the Christian friars who sought to impose their faith on the indigenous people. Less well-known is the story of the aristocratic Isabel Godin, whose harrowing journey down the Amazon in the late 18th century is a truly amazing feat. De Bruhl then chronicles the travels of German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, whose writings laid the foundations for physical geography and meteorology. In the Victorian era, other scientists followed—Alfred Russel Wallace, Henry Walter Bates and Richard Spruce—and the author recounts the adventures of each. Spruce’s role in smuggling out cinchona seeds (the bark was used in the production of quinine) makes for fascinating reading. Similarly, De Bruhl’s account of the rubber boom and bust is a rich story, revealing much about the plantation aristocracy and the virtual enslavement of the rubber tappers. In the final chapter, “Exploitation, Despoliation, or Conservation,” De Bruhl discusses the impact of logging, cattle ranching, oil drilling and soybean farming, presents the arguments of environmentalists working to save the rain forests of the Amazon and discusses the pros and cons of the Brazilian government’s actions and inactions. As he writes, it is a tale of “greed, altruism, rapacity, generosity, preservation, exploitation, religious fervor, even genocide.” The Amazon’s problems are the world’s problem, he argues, and what happens there affects us all.

A whirlwind tour through the history of a vast foreign land. One quibble: The profusion of unfamiliar names is overwhelming and disorienting, requiring more help than that provided by the single map included in the book.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-58243-490-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2010

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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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