An eminent classical historian (Founders of the Western World, 1991, etc.) skillfully records the turbulent life of the first Christian Roman emperor and founder of Constantinople, Constantine the Great (c. 272337). Constantine grew up during the Tetrarchy, a system in which the Roman Empire was divided into western and eastern halves, each headed by an emperor (``Augustus'') and a deputy (``Caesar''). Constantine was the son of Constantius I Chlorus, a rough soldier of humble origin who rose to become the Caesar to Diocletian's co- emperor Maximian in 286. When Constantius was made Caesar of the western half, Constantine was left at the court of Diocletian until the resignation of Diocletian and Maximian in 305, leaving Constantius and Galerius as emperors. When Constantius died at York in 306, his troops hailed Constantine as the new emperor. Although Constantine showed genius as a general, Grant points out that he achieved his greatest victories in battles against fellow Romans: The author narrates Constantine's triumphs in the protracted civil wars with rivals Maximian and his son Maxentius in 310 and 312 and his giant victory over co-emperor Licinius at Hadrianopolis in 334, in which Constantine consolidated his control over the entire empire. Constantine dealt pitilessly with any challenge: Among his many victims, he had his eldest son Crispus murdered (326) based on charges from his (Constantine's) wife Fausta that Crispus was plotting to usurp the throne, and then had Fausta murdered on charges of adultery. Although the founding of Constantinople (330) and the establishment of state Christianity (312) were great achievements, Grant concludes that Constantine ``had a lot to answer for.'' Finally, despite the precedent of the Tetrarchy, he divided the empire among his sons at his death, thus ensuring another round of debilitating civil wars. A highly readable and superbly researched biography of a man whose achievements transformed the decaying Roman Empire and had a lasting impact on Europe. (History Book Club main selection)

Pub Date: July 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-684-19520-8

Page Count: 267

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 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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