Illuminating reading for students of early modern European history.

VICTORY OF THE WEST

THE GREAT CHRISTIAN-MUSLIM CLASH AT THE BATTLE OF LEPANTO

A detailed account of one of the world’s great battles, the fateful encounter between the fleets of Western allies and the Ottoman Empire.

In October 1571, the “Holy League,” made up of forces from Venice, Spain, the Papal States and elsewhere in Mediterranean Europe, sent a great armada against Sultan Selim II’s battle-hardened forces, agents of an undisguised program of imperial expansion and of jihad. For Italian historian Capponi, there’s no sweetening the latter term; as he writes, jihad implies “holy war on behalf of Islam,” as the massacre at Otranto, still resounding in Christian Europe, demonstrated all too clearly. Determined to stop the Ottoman push toward Rome and other key points, the Holy League’s forces gathered along the western coast of Greece and lured “the Lord Turk” into the straits off Lepanto. As Capponi records, the battle hinged on many factors, some unforeseeable. One was the steady improvement in Western military technology, armaments that brought shock and awe to the enemy, even though Capponi urges that it would not be for another century that technological superiority would prove decisive. Changes in military organization and command structure figured. Politics also played a part, and to read Capponi’s account is to be constantly surprised that the bickering allies could have pulled victory away from the monolithic Ottomans. Yet they did, in a fierce battle that cost the future novelist Miguel de Cervantes an arm and turned on one of the finest flanking maneuvers in naval history, a textbook case even today. Capponi provides enough geeky detail to satisfy a Tom Clancy fan, but this is a story told as a story, and he does well—especially in the matter-of-fact ending, in which the principal players in the battle, winners and losers alike, suffer the effects of politicking.

Illuminating reading for students of early modern European history.

Pub Date: April 30, 2007

ISBN: 0-306-81544-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2007

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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