A book both insightful and painful to read.



An account of Britain and France’s betrayal of Czechoslovakia to Hitler.

A Cambridge graduate and Czech scholar, Caquet (The Orient, the Liberal Movement, and the Eastern Crisis of 1839-41, 2016)—who speaks Czech, Slovak, French, and German—writes that Czechoslovakia, formed after the 1918 breakup of Austria-Hungary, was a vibrant, prosperous democracy. It contained several non-Czech ethnic groups, including German-speakers (Sudetens), about 20 percent of the population. Though never part of Germany proper, Sudetens participated in the government and were not persecuted. When Hitler came to power, he proclaimed that all Germans yearned to join the Reich. With Nazi backing, a Sudeten quasi-Nazi party formed, and its violent tactics soon made it the dominant political force. With Nazi media full of purely fictional accounts of atrocities against Sudetens and Hitler demanding self-determination, Britain and France realized that there was a “Sudeten problem” and offered to negotiate a solution. No one at the time knew that Hitler had ordered Sudeten leaders to make impossible demands. In September 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain flew for his first meeting with Hitler, coming away full of praise for his statesmanship. Returning after dragooning the reluctant French and even more reluctant Czechs to agree to cede lands with more than 50 percent German-speakers, he was flabbergasted when Hitler refused. War seemed imminent, which, Caquet emphasizes, might have been a good thing. The Czechs had a fortified frontier and a formidable army, Germany’s generals believed the Wermacht was not prepared, and the Soviet Union declared its support for the Czechs (it became a German ally a year later). Sadly, Chamberlain was indefatigable, warning French leaders that Britain would not support them in any war. Eagerly accepting Mussolini’s offer to help, he returned a few days later and gave Hitler everything he wanted. With access to new material, the author delivers what is likely the definitive history of a disgraceful event.

A book both insightful and painful to read.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59051-050-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

Did you like this book?


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

Did you like this book?

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet