For World War I and military scholars and historians.



A military historian re-examines “this infamous battle, considering it afresh with the accumulated knowledge of a century of scholarship.”

Although traditionally portrayed as the usual World War I horror show, the “ultimate expression of meaningless, industrialized slaughter,” the 1917 Battle of Passchendaele does not qualify, writes Lloyd (Military and Imperial History/King’s Coll., London; Hundred Days: The Campaign that Ended World War I, 2014, etc.), whose lively if gruesome account concludes that its generals were not as stupid as portrayed and that Passchendaele was an Allied victory—sort of. By early 1917, painful experience had taught Britain’s commander, Gen. Douglas Haig, that mass assaults on enemy defenses produced unacceptable casualties. As a result, he had adopted a tactic of immense artillery preparation followed by coordinated attacks on specific strong points. The Germans countered by constructing multiple defensive lines, manning forward trenches lightly, and keeping large forces in reserve to counterattack. This worked, and Haig’s initial attack in July failed with catastrophic losses. Displaying uncharacteristic imagination, he turned to Second Army leader Herbert Plumer, whose solution (“bite and hold”) was to attack, halt after the initial short advance, dig in, and send reinforcements to resist the inevitable counterstrike. The results in September and October were three victories (by WWI standards), which greatly distressed the German high command. Carried away, Haig continued to launch offensives, minus careful preparation and in the face of torrential autumn rains and increasing resistance. All failed amid unspeakable misery in the legendary Flanders mud. Lloyd excels in describing the campaign’s run-up and consequences, and he shows equal skill describing the fighting. However, since this was a relentless series of individual actions featuring terrible casualties and unimaginable suffering under awful conditions, followed by more of the same, many readers will find it a tough slog.

For World War I and military scholars and historians.

Pub Date: May 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-465-09477-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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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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