Recommended for general readers seeking a thorough, nonpartisan guide to the tragic history of this most distressful country.




A balanced overview of the history of Ireland, written to accompany a BBC television series.

This island nation’s history teems with explosive, emotional issues that partisans tend to view in simplistic, black-and-white terms; such readers will find no encouragement here. "Nothing reduces me to despair more than a vision of Irish history that reduces the debate about the past to a simple paradigm of the Irish versus the English, who was right and who was wrong, as if history could be reduced to a crude morality play," writes Irish author Hegarty (Dublin: A View from the Ground, 2008, etc.) at the outset of this ambitious survey of nearly 1,600 years of Irish history. His primary theme is that Ireland is a land repeatedly invaded and settled by foreigners, from the Vikings who founded Dublin to the Scottish Presbyterians invited into Ulster by the government of James I, and that each of these groups has contributed to the ethnic, religious and cultural diversity and conflicts on this divided island. Ireland has also been deeply affected by such outside influences as the Counter-Reformation and the French Revolution, and has in turn affected Europe and North America by the almost constant emigration of its people. Hegarty highlights the complexities underlying Ireland’s ongoing conflicts and sails through them without passing judgments, calmly observing as one communal massacre inspires another, or as British government policies fail to relieve the devastation of the Famine, or the Irish Free State descends into civil war. The broad scope of the work requires that the author move along briskly. There is no dreary catalogue of early Irish kings; even such giants as Oliver Cromwell and Charles Parnell receive only about a dozen each, and cultural history is given short shrift. The resulting focus on political events and social movements at the expense of colorful personalities and illuminating anecdotes, combined with Hegarty's consistently objective tone, render the narrative sometimes disappointingly bland but never dry.

Recommended for general readers seeking a thorough, nonpartisan guide to the tragic history of this most distressful country.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-250-00289-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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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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