A solid if unsurprising introduction to history's greatest conqueror by an expert on his life and times. Famed for such works as A History of Greece to 322 b.c. (1959), Hammond (Greek/Bristol Univ.) has distilled a lifetime of Alexander studies into a brief summary for the general reader of what the Macedonian conqueror did and why. To keep it readable, Hammond includes no footnotes; an appendix refers the skeptical reader to the author's more detailed works. Beginning with Alexander's boyhood, the book recounts his amazing military feats in the Balkans, Asia, and Egypt, ending with his premature death of malaria at 32. The prose is dense and many of the facts familiar; even so, the tale's particulars can still inspire gasps of astonishment, as when Alexander successfully leads his army across the lethal desert of Gedrosia. The biographer openly admires his subject, lauding him not only as history's greatest general but as a charismatic and enlightened leader who aimed to foster prosperity and peace. This is never completely believable: Was Alexander really that perfect? Did contempt for other peoples and greed for their wealth play no role in the foundation of his empire? So satisfied is Hammond with Alexander's own conviction of having the gods' favor that he uncritically records stories of fulfilled omens that will be suspicious to anyone who doesn't believe in Zeus. Hammond states at the outset his disagreement with scholars who ``pick and choose'' among primary sources to support their ``disbelief in great men,'' but he seems all too ready to go to the opposite extreme, denying or rationalizing stories that present Alexander in an unflattering light. The book succeeds as a summary of facts but not as a convincing portrait; it sounds at times more like a boys' adventure yarn than a true intellectual adventure. (illustrations, not seen) (Book-of-the-Month Club/History Book Club selection)

Pub Date: March 10, 1997

ISBN: 0-8078-2350-3

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Univ. of North Carolina

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1997

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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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