Drier than dust—a shame, given the inherent interest of the materials—but nonetheless useful to historians of the period.




British scholar Price (History/Univ. of Bradford) scrutinizes a little-studied episode of the French Revolution and solves a couple of minor mysteries in the bargain.

Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette may have lost their lives to the guillotine, but they didn’t go down without a fight. Price takes up a challenge posed by 19th-century German historian Max Lenz to “continue what I have begun” in tracking down documentary evidence of the life and work of one French aristocrat who tried to save the monarchy. Baron de Breteuil’s appointment as prime minister seems to have touched off the storming of the Bastille, but Price reckons he was a fairly decent chap all the same. In the early days of the revolution’s triumph, the baron and a handful of capable royalist associates undertook a series of negotiations with more moderate members of the new government in the hope, it appears, of coming to a constitutional accommodation whereby Louis and his queen would be allowed some sort of figurehead role, or at least could keep their heads. Those negotiations were underdone on both sides, the moderates having been chased into hiding by more radical revolutionaries, and the hidebound conservatives among the royalists insisting that any constitutional monarchy be one “in partnership with the privileged orders, not the third estate”—in other words, one that would deprive the people of any share of power. The revolutionaries, naturally, rejected this option. “Under the circumstances,” Price writes, “the royal authority could only have been restored by civil war or foreign invasion”—and, indeed, de Breteuil did try to forge an alliance of European powers to invade France, get rid of the pesky sans-culottes, and restore the king to the throne. All of which soon happened, but with a different cast of characters and for entirely different reasons.

Drier than dust—a shame, given the inherent interest of the materials—but nonetheless useful to historians of the period.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-312-26879-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2002

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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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