An excellent history, but more importantly, a sharply written portrait of a people and their long struggle to survive.



Walsh (Journalism/Kingston Coll.; The News from Ireland: Foreign Correspondents and the Irish Revolution, 2008) digs into the heart of the fight to establish an Irish Republic.

In 1914, British Parliament passed the Home Rule Act, but it was suspended until after World War I, and during a period of 10 years, the English bought 12 million acres from large estates for purchase by the tenants. Home Rule was not enough for the “small but insuppressible island.” Walsh provides an eye-opening look at one of many new countries emerging after the war and their similar struggles. The Easter Uprising of 1916 was the beginning, and it produced enough martyrs to build the small army of volunteers who picked up the cause. The election of 1918, with women voting for the first time, returned a majority for Sinn Féin, who didn’t wait for permission to rule themselves and established a government in Dublin. This Dáil Éireann, the Irish parliament, took power from the British government, but Britain paid little attention until 1919, when it was outlawed, forcing it underground. Walsh’s narrative is really about the toughness of the Irish people, the enormous role of the Catholic Church, the end of the landed gentry, and how the Irish Republican Army led what the author calls a flawed revolution. The Royal Irish Constabulary was the model for colonial police, and they were the symbol of British rule and the prime Irish Republican Army target for assassination. It was murderous and cruel on both sides, a conflict with vendetta the only rule. Anarchy was the order of the day as the IRA robbed banks, stole cars, and shot anyone in their way. They were not the only beasts in this game, however. Ultimately, writes the author, the “sense that the revolution was a failure because it did not create a new country was the bitterest feeling of all.”

An excellent history, but more importantly, a sharply written portrait of a people and their long struggle to survive.

Pub Date: May 17, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63149-195-5

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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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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