In this scholarly, limpidly written work, Rubin (The Mother Mirror, 1984; The New Suburban Woman, 1982) recounts the story of Spain's greatest queen and the impact of her reign on her country and the world. The marriage of Isabella of Castile and Prince Ferdinand of Aragon (1469), more than any other event, caused the creation of the Spanish state by merging Spain's two main Christian kingdoms. Rubin demonstrates that Isabella's unique personality left a pervasive mark on the nascent Spanish society. Isabella's devout Catholicism led her to embrace religious fanatics like her confessor Cisneros, and resulted in the completion of the reconquista (the conquest of Moorish Spain), the expulsion of the Jews and Moors from Spain, and the institution of the uniquely repressive and cruel Spanish Inquisition (Rubin speculates, without much evidence, that Isabella suffered from a troubled conscience about these excesses). The author also shows how Isabella's faith motivated her to support Columbus's voyages of discovery (she saw his explorations principally as an opportunity to win new souls to Christ, and Rubin relies on primary sources to illustrate Isabella's misgivings at Columbus's frank exploitation of the natives). Rubin also explains the relationship between Isabella's personal tragedies and European politics—the marriage of her daughters Catherine and Juana had important historic consequences but both ended in tragedy. While the author demonstrates the critical importance of Isabella's reign for the Spain that emerged from it, she does not succeed in making a case for Isabella as a ``Renaissance queen'': Isabella united and strengthened Spain but left it intellectually hobbled and dominated by the Church, and less culturally diverse and tolerant than before. Nonetheless, Rubin succeeds admirably in recounting the accomplishments of one of European history's greatest monarchs. A first-rate exposition.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 1991

ISBN: 0-312-05878-0

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1991

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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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