A brilliant history of the Dark Ages showing the growth and development of science, business, fashion, law, politics and...




Novelist, journalist and historian Pye (The Pieces from Berlin, 2004, etc.) challenges all our notions of the Dark Ages and shows the vast accomplishments completed long before the Renaissance.

The author chronicles the enormous impact of the countries bordering the North Sea, showing how the light shining out of those dark years changed our attitudes about art, mathematics, engineering, science, society and even women’s rights. This book must be ranked right up there with the works of Mark Kurlansky and Thomas Cahill as a primer of the steps that led to modern civilization. Pye begins with the Frisians, who inhabited the areas along the border of the Netherlands and Belgium. They drained the salt marshes with dikes, ditches and windmills and created pastures for grazing. Their wide trading prompted the reintroduction of money and, most importantly, shared ideas. Learning was widespread during the Dark Ages, and countless universities were formed. The Venerable Bede wrote on nature and the tides and eventually became known as the “father of English history.” Throughout this time period, books were borrowed and copied, and the independent thoughts contained within often made them worth burning. As Pye demonstrates, the Vikings had the widest impact on the area. As the first to be able to tack into the wind, they could travel and trade to Iceland, through the Baltic and down the Volga River, bringing back food, slaves and goods. The laws of the North Sea communities were actually quite liberal. Women were allowed to inherit, which led to later, and consensual, marriages, as well as the institutions of pensions and annuities. Also common were béguinages, religious houses for women who moved to the cities where they could safely work, earn and learn.

A brilliant history of the Dark Ages showing the growth and development of science, business, fashion, law, politics and other significant institutions—a joy to read and reread.

Pub Date: April 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-60598-699-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 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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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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