Students of exploration and world cultures will find value here.



A scholarly survey of the current state of knowledge on the ancient peopling of Oceania.

Blending ethnohistory, archaeology, and linguistics, anthropologist Thomas asks the big questions about “a civilization that has seldom been recognized as such.” Who were its progenitors? Where did they come from? How did they accomplish such daring acts of navigation and exploration? To the first two questions, the author reaches far back into the past to study the dispersal of humans out of Africa and into Southeast Asia, from which protohominids such as Homo floresiensis, dubbed the “hobbit” for their short stature, fanned out into the islands of the South China Sea and what is now Indonesia. From Papua New Guinea, modern humans of the sapiens variety began to sail to nearby islands, usually keeping sight of land. The ancestors of the modern Polynesians, an Indigenous people who settled in what is now Taiwan, did them and the people of the Lapita culture one better. Using a sophisticated knowledge of the stars and the movement of ocean currents, they sailed all the way across the Pacific over generations. Thomas notes that in early encounters with Polynesians, European explorers theorized about their origins while marveling at the accomplishments of these sailors, concluding that “a single ‘great nation’ had dispersed itself across the vast ocean” because of the pronounced cultural continuities among the peoples who settled places as remote as Rapa Nui and New Zealand. Even so, as Thomas astutely observes, there were also profound differences. The Hawaiians developed a near-feudal royal system, for instance, “very different from the comparatively decentralized political forms that emerged in the Marquesas and among New Zealand Maori.” The author’s academic tone makes the book largely of interest to specialists, though his view that the Polynesians have long been “archipelago dwellers” well aware of their distant relatives on other atolls and high islands brings a welcome world-systems approach to Oceania, an understudied region.

Students of exploration and world cultures will find value here.

Pub Date: June 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5416-1983-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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