Foss, an independent historian, absorbingly tells the strange tale of Christendom's First Crusade (109799) to liberate Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Muslim rule. In an attempt to unify Latin Christendom and defuse the threat of a Muslim invasion from the East, Pope Urban II, in a speech at Clermont, France, in 1095, urged military leaders to form an army of liberation and free the Holy Land from Muslim control. The pope's speech sparked an excess of pious idealism that outstripped common sense: Invoking the protection of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, popular leaders like Peter the Hermit led the first Crusaders, unmilitary mobs of peasants, who indulged in a series of brutal atrocities (a sanguinary pogrom against the Jewish community of Mainz was only the most spectacular) before being scattered by Turkish forces. Knights like Stephen of Blois and Godfrey of Bouillon assembled a more professional but still motley Christian army, notable from the first for its violence and lack of discipline. Driven by an intense religious fervor, the Christian army conducted total war against Muslims and Jews, showing no mercy to the elderly, women, or children. They defeated the forces sent against them, captured the cities of Antioch and Nicaea, and concluded the campaign with a successful assault on the Holy City of Jerusalem. In each case, a wanton slaughter of the inhabitants followed. Through three years of costly struggle, faith that sometimes was little more than superstition sustained the Crusaders: After the fall of Antioch, a seer named Peter Bartholomew claimed to have uncovered the lance that pierced Jesus' side, which was believed to ensure the ultimate victory of the Crusaders. Foss's account points up the irony of this war, in which religion was pressed into the cause of violence and brigandry, and concludes that ``God—Allah—is not best served, if at all, by fighting.'' A sobering narrative, well told, of a shameful episode that epitomized religious bigotry and intolerance. (22 illustrations, 7 maps, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1997

ISBN: 1-55970-414-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1997

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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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