A stimulating, easily digested introduction to the cataclysm that inaugurated the 20th century.




The First World War in fewer than 250 pages.

Stone (History/Bilkent Univ.; Europe Transformed, 1878-1919, 1984, etc.) tackles the daunting task of summarizing a four-year global conflict in a brief cohesive narrative. For the most part he succeeds, astutely weaving together events from the Eastern, Western and Middle Eastern fronts until their culmination at Brest-Litovsk and the Treaty of Versailles; his almost complete omission of the African front is the one major lapse. The author’s prose is anecdotal and overly colloquial, but his command of the subject matter is impressive and his style accessible. Stone’s German-centric approach to framing the war balances the interplay between the Eastern and Western fronts, which would prove central to Germany’s eventual capitulation. Yet the author also abides by the conventional view of sole German responsibility that would wreak so much havoc during the negotiations at Versailles; he notes in the opening chapter that “Berlin was waiting for ‘the inevitable accident.’ ” While other powers struggled with internal nationalist movements throughout the war, most notably in the Russian, Hapsburg and Ottoman empires, Germany was a nation-state trying to move in the other direction and establish an empire. Stone juxtaposes the German high command’s zeal against its failure to reconcile traditional cavalry-based warfare with new developments in technology. British and French military leaders made the same mistake, which proved to be one of the main factors in prolonging the dreaded stalemates and trench warfare that consumed so many lives. The author skims over some fascinating cultural elements, including the tremendous outpouring of trench literature and poetry, but he manages to address every military and political facet of the Great War in this welcome look at its manifestations beyond the Western Front.

A stimulating, easily digested introduction to the cataclysm that inaugurated the 20th century.

Pub Date: May 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-465-01368-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2009

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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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