Peterson (History/Univ. of Virginia; The Jefferson Image in the American Mind, not reviewed) uses the life and legend of Abraham Lincoln to show the general reader how ``history'' is made. It is not a pretty sight. Although professional historians may find little to surprise them here, armchair historians are quite likely to register shock at the consistent disregard for truth among portrayers of Lincoln. Hagiographers were just as likely to be inaccurate and to make the facts fit theories as were Lincoln-bashers. Perhaps the kings of hagiography are John George Nicolay and John Milton Hay, whose 10- volume biography (published in 1890) bore the imprimatur of Abe's family. The dectractors include the more recent psychobiographers, such as Dwight G. Anderson. Somewhere in between is the poet turned Lincoln biographer Carl Sandburg. Peterson comments that ``in constructing his portrait, Sandburg used whatever came to hand without much regard to authenticity.'' But Peterson finds only a few who search for the middle ground, and they stand out memorably from the crowd: Frederick Douglass, whose ``gnawing doubt'' about Lincoln's motives for emancipating the slaves informed his ambivalent speech at an 1876 ceremony meant to honor the assassinated president; and muckracking journalist Ida Tarbell, who, three decades after Lincoln's death, made a serious attempt to write the biographical truth after so many published lies. The organization of the book—mostly chronological but sometimes thematic—makes the going tough in spots, and Peterson is less judgmental than perhaps he ought to be regarding the corruption of research that has led to so many false portrayals of Lincoln. On the other hand, thinking readers will find it refreshing to reach their own judgments of the Lincoln treatments chronicled in a mostly fine piece of historiography.

Pub Date: May 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-19-506570-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1994

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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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