Narrative history at its best, with patient unfolding of events unknown and forgotten—but that have consequences even today....

THE CRIMEAN WAR

A HISTORY

Quick: What was the Crimean War about?

If you can’t easily answer the question, or even locate the Crimean War within a couple of decades of the mid-19th century, then you are not alone. As Figes (History/Birkbeck Coll., Univ. of London; The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia, 2007, etc.) notes, even in France, which lost some 100,000 soldiers in the conflict, the Crimean War is very nearly forgotten. The author locates the origins of the war—now remembered almost exclusively for the so-called Charge of the Light Brigade—in several proximate causes. The clash of three ambitious empires (Russian, Ottoman and British) was one; related to it was the growing Russian Orthodox presence in the Holy Land, and related to that the rivalry among Islam, Catholicism (and Anglicanism) and Orthodox Christianity. The French “were most alarmed by the growing Russian presence in the Holy Lands,” writes Figes, and they pressed for ways to contain it—and not just that, but also the growing Russian influence in the Balkans, still dominated by the Ottomans. Louis Napoleon found perhaps unexpected allies in the British, rivals with Russia for dominance in Central Asia; for the Ottomans, meanwhile, the conflict was one in just many with Russia. The author ably chronicles the savagery of all parties—drawing on hitherto unknown Russian and Turkish archives, he reckons that the death count was more than 1 million, including the unfortunate dead of the besieged Russian city of Sevastopol—and illustrates the utter modernity of this first “total war.” Figes closes with a fascinating account of how the war shaped the nations that fought it; in Russia, for instance, it helped launch the later pan-Slavic movement and is commemorated as a noble defeat against Britain’s “aggressive imperialist aims in the Black Sea”—in short, as a foreshadowing of the Cold War and the “clash of civilizations” among Islam and the West.

Narrative history at its best, with patient unfolding of events unknown and forgotten—but that have consequences even today. A thoroughly impressive book.

Pub Date: April 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8050-7460-4

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2011

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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