A historian’s history that deserves pride of place in every library.




Historian and journalist Jones (Countdown to Valkyrie: The July Plot to Kill Hitler, 2008, etc.) enlightens and delights in this history of the London Tower.

The author begins with tales of William the Conquerer, whose “motte-and-bailey” forts could be erected “within a week.” The stone Tower of London, on the other hand, became the center of power and residence for the English royalty through Elizabeth I. The buildings surrounding the White Tower served not only as royal pomp, but also as the armory, where blacksmiths forged swords, fletchers made arrows and weaponry was stored, including gunpowder (a near disaster during the Great Fire of 1666). After King John lost the crown jewels in the Wash estuary, his son Henry III ruled that their replacements be kept in the Tower at all times. During his reign, Henry expanded the buildings, centralized the Mint and established the Royal Menagerie, which delighted visitors for 600 years, until the Duke of Wellington expelled the animals to the newly built London Zoo in Regent’s Park. Jones enumerates the many who lost their heads, as well as the many prisoners who suffered little and accomplished much—e.g., Walter Raleigh, who wrote The History of the World during his 13 years there. There were also many who left behind heartfelt letters to family, most notably Thomas More. Jones offers a wealth of interesting tidbits, including the story of one escapee who carved tools and blackened them with polish.

A historian’s history that deserves pride of place in every library.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-62296-1

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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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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