Who knew the 10th century could be so compelling?

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THE BIRTH OF THE WEST

ROME, GERMANY, FRANCE, AND THE CREATION OF EUROPE IN THE TENTH CENTURY

A lively, full-to-bursting history of the turbulent 10th century in Europe, when inner dissention and external marauding began to give way to cohesion and centrality.

Australian nonpracticing Catholic priest and historian Collins manages to enthrall readers in the vicissitudes of an early medieval era marked by random violence and unpronounceable Nordic names via his thorough knowledge of the epoch and ability to spin an engaging tale. While giving the brilliant learning of al-Andalus (Muslim Spain) its due, he agrees with Thomas Cahill that the Irish and specifically monks indeed “saved civilization” by their stewardship and dissemination of Latin and Greek learning. Collins presents chaotic upheaval across Europe in an organized and riveting fashion. He provides a rich depiction of the physical landscape, which was experiencing a medieval warm period, allowing the Vikings to settle Greenland in the 980s after the North Atlantic sea ice had retreated. He recaps the important democratic shifts and religious conversions thanks to the inroads of Charlemagne in northern Europe and the Muslims in the south; notes the destabilizing terror struck constantly by the marauding Vikings, Saracens and Magyars; delineates the messy and increasingly dangerous papacy; and one by one takes up the dramas of important galvanizing leaders who emerged to impose some sense of order and centrality of government, even if briefly—e.g., the Saxon king Otto I, King Alfred in England and Brian Boru in Ireland. Along with stories about the likes of Liutprand of Cremona, Otto’s diplomat, the remarkable regent queen Theophano and polymath Gerbert of Aurillac (aka Pope Sylvester II), Collins also explores the lives of ordinary people in a convulsive time.

Who knew the 10th century could be so compelling?

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-61039-013-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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...

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 PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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