A thoughtful re-examination of the causal agents that move history.

Why Leaders Fight

An exacting analysis of the way state leaders influence geopolitical events and, in turn, history at large.

For some years, leadership was widely discounted as a determinant in international affairs, dismissed in favor of institutional or structural factors. Authors Elis (a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Michigan), Horowitz (Political Science/Univ. of Pennsylvania; The Diffusion of Military Power, 2010), and Stam (Democracies at War, 2010)—all experienced scholars with a collective background in political science, public policy, and government—argue that the impact of leaders has been too hastily neglected: “It is easy to take the role of leaders for granted, seeing them constrained by circumstances, by the international and domestic political contexts in which they operate.” To this end, they compile an exhaustive data set on world leaders called Leader Experience and Attribute Descriptions. Drawing from behavioral psychology, which connects the decisions someone makes and his or her personal history, the authors assess a wide array of biographical concerns including gender, childhood wealth, education, parentage, military service, and age, among many others. They also devote special attention to the elements that potentially contribute to a leader’s response to risk of both the economic and military varieties. Ultimately, they believe that while even the most powerful leaders are saddled with constraints, they still influence world events as much as anything else. Examining a host of historical leaders, including Winston Churchill, Nikita Khrushchev, John F. Kennedy, and some obscure ones as well, the authors advance an even more fundamental philosophical argument—history is finally shaped by people, not merely impersonal historical forces. The prose is consistently lucid, and the research is a model of scrupulous investigation. Also, the book manages to evince a willingness to buck long-standing convention without using strident rhetoric. One quibble: the authors often take issue with the preference many scholars have for systematic modeling over a more nuanced appreciation of personal idiosyncrasy; however, they never address the potential problem that LEAD attempts to reduce human agency to precisely the same kind of predictive modeling. Nonetheless, this is a valuable contribution to the study of leadership and international relations in general.

A thoughtful re-examination of the causal agents that move history.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-107-02293-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Cambridge Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2015

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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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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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