Norton makes a good case for considering 1774 and not 1776 to be the foundational year of the new republic.




Study of a tumultuous time that shaped 13 of Great Britain’s North American colonies into a breakaway nation.

The great takeaway from this deeply researched, occasionally plodding history by Norton (Emerita, American History/Cornell Univ., Separated by Their Sex: Women in Public and Private in the Colonial Atlantic World, 2011, etc.) is that taxation without representation is reason for restiveness and rebellion. Yet, as she notes, Colonial Americans were not entirely indisposed to paying taxes to the British Crown: The colonists were so enamored of tea that it was difficult for even the most independent-minded to avoid paying the consumption tax the British government placed on it—twice, in fact: once when it arrived in England and once when it arrived in the Colonies. One solution was to acquire tea on the black market, brought in illegally from non-British Caribbean countries or from Holland. Boston alone, writes the author, brought in 265,000 pounds of taxed tea in 1771—but another “575,000 pounds of smuggled tea.” Norton delivers a densely argued account of the economy of tea and other commodities, such as tobacco. The former, in particular, served as a flash point for revolution come the so-called Boston Tea Party that closed the year 1773 and during much of the turmoil of 1774, which would finally boil over in the armed uprising at Concord and Lexington and its spread into revolutionary war. Though the book is most useful to specialist readers, of particular interest are episodes that illustrate how Colonial thinkers viewed the prospect of war with the mother country in that climacteric period. These include a legally minded cleric who calculated that since King George III had effectively broken his bargain with America by “levying war upon us,” all bets were off and the Colonies owed allegiance to neither monarch nor Parliament.

Norton makes a good case for considering 1774 and not 1776 to be the foundational year of the new republic.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-35336-6

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 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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