A useful one-volume history refreshingly without many bones to pick but also without much fire.

THE EARTH IS WEEPING

THE EPIC STORY OF THE INDIAN WARS FOR THE AMERICAN WEST

A sturdy overview of the Indian Wars.

Cozzens (Battlefields of the Civil War: The Battles that Shaped America, 2011, etc.) turns his attention westward to the combat between invading whites and Natives along the frontier. Traditional histories set the beginnings of that conflict with the Sioux Uprising of 1862, but Cozzens starts in 1866 with the better-studied war of resistance mounted by Red Cloud. His long narrative continues to the shameful massacre of the Sioux at Wounded Knee a generation later, a compressed period with many set pieces, from the Battle of Little Bighorn to the murder of Crazy Horse and the Geronimo Campaign. The author covers all the ground dutifully if without much flair; this is a narrative of facts more than ideas, and it sometimes plods. Still, Cozzens is not without insight—“the Indians who had gone to war against the government had usually done so reluctantly,” he writes, “and they had lost their land and their way of life anyway”—and there is much merit in having a readable history of the Indian Wars in one volume. Cozzens promises to “bring historical balance” to the story, and he does, but this mostly means demonstrating to readers that not all whites were devils and not all tribes that were not wholeheartedly in resistance were sellouts, the view we have been accustomed to since Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1970). As Cozzens notes on the latter score, many Native groups saw the federal government as a reliable protector against rival tribes, and regardless, instances were few where there was monolithic opposition to the whites even within a group. Still, as Gen. George Crook noted of the Indians, “all the tribes tell the same story. They are surrounded on all sides, the game is destroyed or driven away, they are left to starve, and there remains but one thing for them to do—fight while they can.”

A useful one-volume history refreshingly without many bones to pick but also without much fire.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-307-95804-4

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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

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