No stone is left unturned in this dynamic analysis of an intriguing period in African history.




The unruly formation of South Africa, set to a backdrop of war over the country’s invaluable resources.

Meredith (The Fate of Africa: From the Hopes of Freedom to the Heart of Despair, 2005, etc.) plunders his expansive knowledge of the continent’s history once again for this examination of the genesis of current-day South Africa. A ten-page introduction sketches Britain’s contemptuous disinterest in the colony before the late 1800s; the main narrative opens in 1871, the year a fertile deposit of diamonds was discovered outside Cape Town. This triggered a hunt for further riches, and the region proved to be positively swimming in diamonds and gold. The author proceeds to take his readers on an epic journey into South African history stretching from 1871 to 1910 and revolving around the brutal, costly war that broke out between the British and the Boers, each side hungry for the riches springing from South African soil. Cecil Rhodes led the Brits, Paul Kruger the Boers; Meredith’s vivid depictions of these men and their activities lie at the story’s bloody heart. Rhodes is portrayed as a megalomaniac hell-bent on ruling over sizable portions of the globe. (His will contained instructions to extend British dominion throughout the world via a secret society he wished his successors to set up.) The author vibrantly captures the Brits’ disastrous misjudgment of Kruger as “an uneducated, ill-mannered peasant.” On the contrary, Meredith reveals, Kruger’s oafish persona masked a keen intelligence far greater than he was given credit for; acknowledging this is key to understanding the strong resistance the Boers were able to stage in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. The author also covers a tremendous amount of ground beyond the battlefield before threading his various strands together to paint a fascinating picture of the Afrikaner nationalism that emerged from this turbulent period and eventually resulted in the formation of Apartheid.

No stone is left unturned in this dynamic analysis of an intriguing period in African history.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-58648-473-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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