A good choice for scholars and students of the Plantagenets.



A history of King Henry II (1133-1189) and his unpleasant royal sons.

A medieval king did not simply give orders. He was the first among equals, a baron whose land provided income to support his army and who had convinced other barons with their own land and armies that he was the most powerful. Being king was expensive and hard work, but there were always candidates. Crowned in 1154, Henry II ruled Britain and more French territory than the French king. Although called the Angevin Empire, writes broadcaster and historian Barratt (The Forgotten Spy: The Untold Story of Stalin’s First British Mole, 2016, etc.), it was more like a commonwealth since French nobles preferred to rule on their own. Everything began well because Henry took kingship seriously, pacified his realm, and introduced reforms that have persisted to the present time. Then four of his sons reached adulthood and required attention. Henry appointed his eldest heir but gave him no responsibility. He gave lands and income to the others, who acquired more through marriage, but all remained unsatisfied. From the 1170s until well into the following century, the sons engaged in a relentless series of quarrels, wars, rebellions, reconciliations, and betrayals with their father and, then, after his death, with each other and several foreign powers. “What made the Angevin conflict so noteworthy was that Henry’s entire family turned against him,” writes Barratt, “and that so many other powers were dragged into the conflict as a result of interconnected geopolitical alliances.” Matters did not improve when son John emerged as the sole survivor in 1199. Expensive, unpopular wars did not prevent the loss of most French territory, and rebellious British nobles forced him to sign the Magna Carta in 1215. Readers curious about how ordinary people lived in medieval times must look elsewhere, but this is a solid political history of a royal family whose members were pugnacious, grasping, devious, and shortsighted.

A good choice for scholars and students of the Plantagenets.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-571-32910-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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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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